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Revisiting P.K. Subban-Shea Weber trade, wild day of moves one year later

How events of June 29, 2016, shaped six teams

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

If there is one thing that marked June 29, 2016, a day that shook the NHL like no other in recent memory, it was that it pitted old against new.

Old, yet perhaps still accurate ways of looking at the game compared to new, yet perhaps also accurate ways of using analytics.

Old, traditional hockey markets vs. new, emerging ones.

And, in one case, an older player being traded for a newer (younger) one.

Three transactions in a flurry had wide-ranging effects that are being felt a year later and probably for years to come.

There were two that each resulted in a dynamic, possession-driving player from a Canada-based team being traded for a traditional, stay-at-home defenseman from a United States-based team.

Then there was a homegrown player in a so-called nontraditional market who signed a lucrative contract to stay there, and in so doing shut the door on the possibility of him going, well, home to the biggest market in hockey.

3:34 p.m. ET: Forward Taylor Hall is traded from the Edmonton Oilers to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Adam Larsson.

3:54 p.m.: Defenseman P.K. Subban is traded from the Montreal Canadiens to the Nashville Predators for defenseman Shea Weber.

3:57 p.m.: Center Steven Stamkos signs an eight-year, $68 million contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending any chance of him signing as an unrestricted free agent with his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, a hypothetical that had been debated for the better part of two years.

One year later, the ripples are felt the most in Montreal, where they took on the proportion of a tsunami this spring as the city watched Subban help the Predators reach the Stanley Cup Final.

The Canadiens were widely criticized for trading Subban, 27 at the time and seemingly entering the prime of his career, for Weber, 30 at the time and at the very least already a few years into his prime. Subban was wildly popular in Montreal, a player who thrived in the intense glare of the spotlight and whose charitable endeavors made the Toronto native an adopted son.

When the Canadiens were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six first-round games by the New York Rangers, while the Predators were sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks, the debates that raged the previous summer were reignited.

It was the opposite of how the 2016-17 NHL season began. The Canadiens started 9-0-1 with Weber getting 10 points (four goals, six assists). The Predators went 3-5-3 and said later they were adjusting to the loss of Weber, which no one was saying in Montreal about Subban.

But as the season went on, the Predators began to figure things out. Subban found a home on a pair with Mattias Ekholm, and Ekholm's former defense partner, Ryan Ellis, began playing with the person everyone figured would be Subban's partner, Roman Josi.

The Predators, the last team to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, went all the way to the Cup Final, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Weber brought the Canadiens everything they expected this season. He was fifth on Montreal with 42 points (17 goals, 25 assists); was on the ice for fewer goals against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time than any other regular defenseman in the NHL, according to Corisca Hockey; and quickly established himself as a leader in the locker room.

Video: OTT@MTL: Weber hammers home PPG with big slapper

It was by no means Weber's fault Montreal was knocked out in the first round of the playoffs, just as Subban did not single-handedly lead Nashville to the Final.

But optics can sometimes overpower reality. And the optics for the Canadiens in the playoffs were rough, with the Predators' run to the Final further polarizing fans in Montreal into their respective camps on the trade.

Last June 29, the reaction in Montreal was very similar to the one in Edmonton, which has a fan base that might be the most analytically inclined in the NHL. The Hall-for-Larsson trade, much like Subban-for-Weber, did not look good from an analytics perspective, but each trade suited what is sometimes viewed as an old-fashioned need, that of a shutdown defenseman.

Though there are Oilers fans who will never accept that trading from a position of strength to shore up a position of weakness was wise, at least not in this specific case, Edmonton's successful season helped lessen the blow.

Not only did the Oilers ride the Hart Trophy season of center Connor McDavid to their first playoff appearance since 2006, they came within one win of reaching the Western Conference Final, losing 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of the second round.

Larsson came as advertised, solidifying a questionable defense and playing difficult minutes.

The Devils finished last in the Eastern Conference at 28-40-14, but Hall tied Kyle Palmieri for the Devils scoring lead with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists) in 72 games.

So for now, at least, the Hall-for-Larsson trade has seemingly made each team and its fans happy, for the most part. The Oilers are on an upward trajectory, and the Devils were widely considered the winners of the trade.

There shouldn't be any lingering disappointment from the events of June 29 in Toronto, either, where the possibility of the Maple Leafs signing Stamkos, only to have him stay with the Lightning, is a distant memory. Stamkos played 17 games but missed the rest of the season after tearing the lateral meniscus in his right knee on Nov. 15. He scored 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) for the Lightning, who did not make the playoffs.

Meanwhile, forwards Auston Matthews, Mitchell Marner and William Nylander helped push the Maple Leafs into the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and the second time since 2004.

There is real optimism in Toronto, and Stamkos not being there not only isn't a problem, it should make it easier for the Maple Leafs to keep their core together under the NHL salary cap.

Just one aftereffect of a wild day, one year ago.

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