Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban has been in the news quite a bit over the last seven days. There was his benching after a bad turnover last week against Colorado, then there was the hit to the head against Flyers captain Claude Giroux on Friday night, and then there were the incessant trade rumors that never seem to go away with him.
Habs GM Marc Bergevin came out and said that he will not be trading his team's best player, because he's not an idiot. But once upon a time, when Subban and the Canadiens went through an ugly arbitration battle in August 2014, there was certainly the possibility that a trade could have happened.
And it was apparently the Philadelphia Flyers who made the biggest offer at the time. Via Elliotte Friedman's weekly must-read column, 30 Thoughts:
As for trading Subban, when he and the Canadiens went through their nasty arbitration process in 2014, I think they considered the idea. At the end of the day, they decided keeping Subban was better than whatever they could get, but word was the best offer came from Philadelphia. (Between this and the Shea Weber offer sheet, the Flyers sure went hard after top defenders.)
What was it? Well, I think it included a first-round pick, 2013 first-rounder Samuel Morin and something else. That something else is obviously a huge part of the puzzle, but it wasn’t, say, Claude Giroux.
A first round pick, Samuel Morin and something else. As Friedman notes, that extra bit is a big question -- so it's hard to judge this trade offer on the full merit. If it wasn't Claude Giroux, but it was say, Sean Couturier, would it have been a good move? It'd be silly to speculate further. (Gah, can you imagine a Subban-Ghost pairing though?)
So the most interesting part here to me is when we get into philosophy of Ron Hextall vs. Paul Holmgren.
Friedman mentioned the Shea Weber offer sheet as evidence that the Flyers have made big moves in an attempt to acquire big-name defensemen. That was, of course, done under Holmgren. He was ready to give away four first-round draft picks to Nashville as compensation for acquiring Weber via offer sheet. That's not something Hextall would do.
Subban and the Habs went through arbitration in early 2014. Hextall was hired as general manager in May 2014, so this trade offer was purely a Hextall job. At first glance, that's kind of surprising -- Hextall talks a lot about "not mortgaging the future" for the present, and trading away a first-round pick and a touted player who was a first-round selection can definitely be considered mortgaging the future.
But that's just the difference thing: an acquisition of Subban would have accelerated the future, and he was only 25 at the time. He would have been the future. He is the type of game-changing defenseman the Flyers needed at the time and still need today, and acquiring him would have bumped the Flyers' timeline for contention up significantly.
We've been conditioned these last two years to just sit and wait and be patient and wait for the kids to come and make it better. For Philadelphians, and particularly Flyers fans, that is not an easy thing to do. So it's nice knowing that Hextall isn't just resting on his laurels, and that he's not averse to taking the big swing if he feels it's possible.
At the same time, there's a solid chance that this trade didn't go through because the Flyers drew a line in the sand with their offer, and that's good too. It means that Hextall is willing to pick up the phone and have the conversation, but he's going to be smart about it. It's a nice quality to have in a general manager.