David Poile knew it was a possibility.
On Saturday morning in Vancouver, the discussions that began approximately two weeks ago became a reality as the Predators traded defenseman P.K. Subban to the New Jersey Devils.
Defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, as well as two, second-round picks, one that ultimately led to the Preds picking at No. 45 on Saturday, and another that will come in 2020, came back to the Predators in the deal, all pieces that will help the club "restock the cupboard" as the GM likes to say.
Poile would have preferred to keep Subban on his roster, but the game is also a business, and someone has to keep the books balanced.
So, as the Nashville general manager sat down to face the media following the conclusion of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena, he made sure to start by thanking Subban for all he did to change the Predators franchise for the better.
"The first thing I want to say is that how good P.K. was for the Predators, both on and off the ice," Poile said. "The energy that he brings to any team [is infectious], and I think he's going to be fabulous in New Jersey and their market. From that standpoint, it's kind of disappointing to be trading him, but having said that, in this day and age, there are certain things that need to happen in a cap era. Our team was trending in a certain way with our contracts that we needed to make some decisions going forward, and that's what we did today."
Last summer, Poile was pleased with his club and didn't expect to make any major changes. But after a disappointing first-round exit in this year's playoffs, he, and the rest of his club, knew the roster wouldn't be the same come October.
Couple that with the desire to sign captain Roman Josi to a new contract and bolster the team's forward corps, potentially through free agency, Poile had to do something. Subban's $9 million cap hit was tough to overlook, and the Devils agreed to take on the entire contract, a deciding component that Poile says ultimately led him to complete the deal.
"That was a big factor," Poile said of the cap relief. "I talked to some other teams, and I'll be honest, that some of the components were salary retention, and all the deals were different in terms of trades and getting players back or what have you. This clearly was the deal that allowed us to save the most or create the most cap space."
Video: David Poile analyzes the P.K. Subban trade
Poile said there were four teams who were serious about acquiring Subban, but each offer for the defenseman was quite different. New Jersey's deal was the only one that did not include any salary retention for Nashville, and that ultimately turned out to be the direction Poile chose.
While losing Subban doesn't improve Nashville's defense corps, Poile is encouraged by who is still there. Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm are some of the best in the League at what they do, and there is now another face on the backend that will make the absence of Subban easier to take.
"I probably would not have made this trade if Dante Fabbro hadn't signed with the Predators and hadn't played at the end of the year and played as well as he did," Poile said. "That gave me good confidence that our defense, led by our captain Roman Josi, Ekholm and Ellis, and now with Fabbro becoming a very good, young player that we could still have a good defense and trade somebody like P.K."
It's also no secret the Preds are interested in what may be out there in the free-agency market. Teams must wait until July 1 to make deals official, but the free-agent courting period begins on Sunday, Poile expects to be working the phones once more.
"I want to see what this week brings, and we're going to explore some different things for sure," Poile said. "We're going to be talking to some people on free agency, but no promises, no commitment, no exact goals; we'll see what happens."
Almost three years to the day when Subban was originally acquired by the Predators, the defenseman is off to another locale, but his time in Nashville won't soon be forgotten by the man who brought him to Music City.
"There was never a bad day for P.K. Subban," Poile said. "He always came to the rink happy, and he played the game with great gusto… He's one of the most positive people that I've met, and he cares about the game. There's no question he cares about himself and his brand, but I think he loves the game and he wants to leave a lasting impression."
Subban certainly did just that in Nashville and on the Predators franchise, and Poile acknowledged one could argue the three best seasons in club history came when Subban was on the roster.
And make no mistake - this trade is part of a bigger plan. How exactly it plays out remains to be seen, but Poile's work is far from over on a bittersweet day.
"I wanted to do it if I could," Poile said of creating cap space. "I just feel more comfortable where we are right now, but I know we've taken a good player off our team, so I can't sit here and say we're a better team for doing that."
Poile confirmed he doesn't expect to bring unrestricted free agents Wayne Simmonds, Zac Rinaldo or Cody McLeod back to Nashville. In regard to UFA forward Brian Boyle, Poile has met with Boyle's agent in Vancouver, and while the GM isn't sure if he'll be able to work out a new deal, he remains interested in doing so.