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Trade Coverage

Canadiens convinced they're better with Weber

Montreal parts with Subban in trade of all-star defensemen

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Quebec -- The Montreal Canadiens are convinced they got better Wednesday by sending P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for Shea Weber in a trade of all-star defensemen.

General manager Marc Bergevin just couldn't say why.

"I will not go into detail why we think we are a better team," Bergevin said, "but we feel we are a better team."

Bergevin's reluctance is understandable, in a sense, because this trade appears to involve so much more than just hockey from the Canadiens point of view. It involves intangibles, leadership, perceived locker-room politics, popularity among the fans, community involvement, and a list of other factors that do not necessarily fall neatly onto a stat sheet.

Subban was in a dead heat with goaltender Carey Price as the Canadiens' most popular player, helped enormously by Subban's commitment last September to raise $10 million over seven years for the Montreal Children's Hospital, which he said he intends to honor.

Video: Marc Bergevin on the Shea Weber trade - Part 1

But Bergevin said he had to make a hockey decision, and that's what he feels he did.

"I understand that P.K.'s a very popular player, he's a very likable player, I get all that," he said. "I understand our fans, they're passionate. That's what makes Montreal a special place. But what we are getting in return is an elite defenseman, he's a diamond in the rough. They'll soon learn to appreciate Shea Weber, a different type of player but a very special player also."

For the Predators, this trade was motivated largely by the on-ice product. They are getting a player who is hitting the prime years of his career and is third in scoring by a defenseman over the past three seasons, behind Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators and Brent Burns of the San Jose Sharks.

"I feel before today we had one of the best, if not top four, defenses in the National Hockey League, and today after the trade I am certain that we have one of the best defenses in the National Hockey League," Nashville general manager David Poile said. "I think the coaches will have a lot of flexibility in how they use our defense … it's players like P.K. Subban who are going to make the difference going from defense to offense, rushing the puck, carrying the mail as I like to say.

"I think he's a fantastic player. He's won a Norris Trophy. He's played in All-Star Games. He's won a gold medal in the Olympics. He was on the All-Rookie team, and as I said, offensively he's actually got more points than Shea has in the last four years. This was a hard deal to make because you trade your captain, you're trading Shea Weber, but we did this deal to improve our team and that's what we've done today."

It's not quite as simple for Bergevin, and he had to navigate a mine field of questions about Subban on Wednesday, at one point pleading that he would rather be talking about Weber.

The reason the questions revolved around Subban was because of how favorably he appears compared to Weber.

Video: Marc Bergevin on the Shea Weber deal - Part 2

Subban turned 27 in May, Weber will be 31 in August. Subban is under contract for six more seasons at an NHL salary-cap charge of $9 million, Weber has 10 years left at a salary-cap charge of $7.86 million.

Subban had six goals and 51 points in 68 games this season, missing the final month after sustaining a neck injury March 10 against the Buffalo Sabres. Weber had 20 goals and 51 points in 78 regular-season games and three goals and seven points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Weber will be 40 when his contract expires, but Bergevin said he is not concerned that he has passed his prime or will be unable to perform over the length of that contract.

"I think Shea Weber's got a lot of good hockey [left]," Bergevin said. "He's been a stud defenseman for a while and I don't see him stopping being that type of defenseman. He's a smart player, he's a big body that plays a smart game. He's good defensively, he played his junior in Kelowna so he was raised that way, and in Nashville they always play that type of hockey. So I believe he's going to be good for a long time."

Complicating matters for Bergevin is the analytical revolution the NHL has seen over the past few seasons, and how Weber and Subban are on opposite ends when it comes to numbers-based analysis of players.

The Predators have been a better possession team with Weber off the ice for the past four seasons, and Subban has helped the Canadiens' possession game when he was on the ice in each of his six NHL seasons.

But Weber seems to check off many boxes on the list of qualities Bergevin is looking for in a player.

Leadership and character: He was captain of the Predators for six seasons.

Winning pedigree: He's a two-time Olympic gold medal winner for Canada.

Size: Weber is 6-foot-4, 236 pounds.

Video: The Preds GM and coach talk about getting Subban

"P.K. is a very good hockey player and he gave the Canadiens some very good service," Bergevin said, "but we're getting back a first-rate defenseman with two gold medals around his neck."

Subban has a no-movement clause in his contract that kicks in July 1, which led to speculation since the Canadiens season ended that he would be traded. Bergevin spoke to reporters Thursday prior to the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo and said he didn't see a realistic trade for Subban that he could pull off.

Speaking after the first round of the draft Friday, Bergevin refused to take any more questions on Subban, saying he had answered them all the day before. In between, Bergevin received a call from Poile on Friday afternoon that changed the situation.

"He got my attention when he brought [up] the name of Shea Weber," Bergevin said.

The talks resumed Sunday and were finalized Wednesday. As difficult as it was for Bergevin to trade a publicly adored player, it was no easier for Poile to trade a player who has been the face of his franchise for years.

"At the end of the day, the job that I have is to make the best decisions to improve this team to try to keep us going to the next level and to eventually win the Stanley Cup," Poile said. "Obviously I would never have [traded Weber] if I didn't believe this. To say this was just Subban for Weber and we just did it, I mean this was as many meetings as we've had on anything."

Bergevin was asked if he's prepared to have this trade define his career as a general manager, one that is four years old.

"I make decisions and live with the consequences," he said. "When you have a job like mine, if you're not ready to do that, you don't have the right job."

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