Steven Stamkos re-signing, and Shea Weber and Taylor Hall arrivals make the East stronger

ByScott Burnside ESPN logo
Thursday, June 30, 2016

So, where to begin with one of the most dramatic half hours in NHL transaction history?

A head-swirling span that saw a swap of two premier defensemen in Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, and included the trade of a No. 1 overall draft pick in Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils that was followed by the news that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos re-signed with the team for the next eight years.

Let's just say the collective hockey heart rate is still beating in the red line, even as we begin to consider all that transpired in that magical 30 minutes.

Let's dive in with a swap of Norris Trophy-worthy defenders and marquee players in Weber and Subban, whose names were not once connected in the ever-swirling trade rumor mill leading up to Wednesday's blockbuster but whose swapping of teams will have repercussions in both cities for years to come.

Subban is 27 and under contract through 2021-22 with a $9 million cap hit. So much for Nashville being a small-market team.

Weber is about to turn 31 and is under contract through 2025-26 with an annual cap hit of $7.86 million, although his 14-year deal was heavily front-loaded and finishes with a real dollar payout of just $5 million over the last four years of the deal.

The two defensemen, teammates on Canada's gold medal-winning team in Sochi at the 2014 Olympics, are as similar in stature and profile as they are dissimilar in style and personality.

Over the past three seasons, Weber has 58 goals and 152 points and led to the Predators to Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, their deepest playoff run ever.

Meanwhile Subban, coming off a disappointing season in Montreal that saw the Habs miss the playoffs, has 31 goals and 164 points over that same three-year period.

If you're Predators GM David Poile, you don't trade your captain and the face of the franchise if you don't think Subban doesn't just fill the void but brings something else to the table, something that carries the team even further than their second-round excursion this spring -- and not just for next year but for years to come.

If the NHL is about speed everywhere on the lineup, including the back end, then Subban will be a nice fit for coach Peter Laviolette's lineup, which continues to boast one of the nicest collection of blue-liners in the league, even with last season's trade of Seth Jones to the Columbus Blue Jackets and this deal.

Are the Predators better poised for the future than they were earlier in the day? Yes.

If you're Montreal GM Marc Bergevin and you decided for whatever reason you needed to make a decision on Subban before his no-trade clause kicked in July 1, you needed to not just get fair value in return but get something different too, something that helps redefine the Canadiens' identity.

Weber brings a granite-hard edge to his game and a booming shot that will help a Montreal team that finished 16th in goals per game and a miserable 25th on the power play.

If Subban was loquacious and effervescent and definitely unafraid of being his own man, a distinct personality, Weber is quite the opposite. If Subban is new school, Weber is definitely old school and it's clear Bergevin felt Subban wasn't going to be a fit long-term in the locker room and made the move to replace him when he still had the chance.

Given the personality of the Predators and the city, it's hard not imagining Subban being an instant fit in the Music City and that the love affair will be a strong two-way street.

If there is concern from the Montreal side, it's in whether Weber will hit a wall in terms of his productivity, based on the ruggedness of his game. Short term, assuming goalie Carey Price returns to health next season, Weber gives the Habs a presence on the blue line they haven't had. How long that presence becomes a factor in the team's success, well, that's an entirely different proposition.

As for the deal that saw Hall moved to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson, kudos to Devils GM Ray Shero for leveraging last season's turnaround in Larsson's game into a game-breaking player, no small feat considering that the Devils continue to be a team in need of offense and a place that isn't exactly high on the list for dynamic offensive free agents.

The Devils will need to find a way to plug the hole left by Larsson's departure but no doubt the more impactful hockey player at least in the short term is coming east in this deal.

Everyone knew that Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli needed to get better, a lot better, on the blue line and that he had oodles of offensive assets to put into play to get that done. Chiarelli gambled that Larsson, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2011 draft, will be a part of that process.

At 6-foot-3 and just 23, this is the kind of deal that might well be heralded as a stepping stone to greatness in Edmonton in years to come. But in many ways Larsson is still an unknown, like so many of the top-rated young defensemen already part of the Edmonton equation. Maybe Larsson and Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom will all grow up together to represent something magical and lasting in a town starved for anything magical when it comes to its hockey team.

Maybe. But Edmonton fans have had a long fill of maybes over the past decade and were hoping for more certainty when it came to sending out a talent like Hall.

Now, if Chiarelli can land a free-agent defender such as Jason Demers and maybe another veteran piece on the blue line, then maybe this deal feels a little differently in Edmonton.

Certainly the expectation is that by shedding Hall's salary (he signed a $42 million, seven-year deal back in the summer of 2012), the Oilers will sign free agent Milan Lucic to provide more veteran leadership up front and the entire Oiler picture starts to come into focus.

And finally it seems a bit anticlimactic that we save the most-talked about player over the past month or so for last. But maybe that's OK for Stamkos and the Lightning, who late Wednesday ended months of speculation by agreeing to an eight-year deal that will pay Stamkos an average of $8.5 million annually to remain a Lightning. His new deal has a full no-movement clause.

Did he leave money on the table by not becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1? Sure. Millions, possibly. Is Tampa the best place for Stamkos to win a Stanley Cup, to ensure his legacy as one of the game's greats and a critical figure in the Lightning's history? No question. None.

There are still challenges ahead for GM Steve Yzerman in keeping this talented nucleus together, but it's hard not to consider the Lightning the early odds-on favorites to lead the Eastern Conference next season, and the return of the captain is no small factor in that belief.

The question is now whether this signing puts in motion a series of dominoes that seem destined to fall fast and furious the moment the free agent market opens at noon ET on Friday.

Related Video