P.K. Subban is hitting all the right notes in Nashville

"He's terrific. He's just so energizing. He's so comfortable being himself," said longtime NHLer and Predators broadcaster Stu Grimson of P.K. Subban, Nashville's newest star. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- "Ring of Fire."

"A Boy Named Sue."

"I Walk the Line."

"One Piece at a Time."

Oh yes, Nashville, P.K. Subban has them all lined up for you. Well, sort of.

After wowing his new fan base by crooning "Folsom Prison Blues" on his first day in Nashville at an iconic downtown honky-tonk, Subban is prepared to unleash more Johnny Cash on the locals -- with one little caveat.

"We win the Stanley Cup, then I'll sing every single that Johnny Cash has ever done," the smooth-skating defenseman explained Monday afternoon during an interview in the workout room of the Nashville Predators' practice facility. "I'll do them all. And for as long as people want to hear it. But until then, I think that was just a little teaser of what's to come if we do what we've got to get done here."

Few trades in any sport -- let alone hockey -- have generated as much buzz as the blockbuster deal on June 29 that sent Subban from the Montreal Canadiens, the team that drafted him with the 43rd pick in 2007, to the Predators for incumbent captain and franchise defenseman Shea Weber.

"He's liberated now," said former longtime NHL goalie Kevin Weekes of Subban, whom he has known since Subban was 8 years old. "[He'll face] less hyper-scrutiny now."

Both Weber and Subban are great people and players, added Weekes, now a national TV analyst.

"Both teams got what they wanted, with new direction," Weekes said.

Still, one of the most fascinating elements of a deal that might well spark debate for years to come is how seamlessly Subban has become not just accepted in Nashville but embraced, adored -- revered, even.

"He's an instant, smash hit," said longtime NHLer Stu Grimson, who provides broadcast analysis for the Predators.

Grimson noted that post-trade rumblings in Montreal suggested that the deal might have been motivated by the fact that Subban's outsized personality was too much for the staid, storied Canadiens franchise.

"I have a hard time reconciling that with what we see here," said Grimson of Subban. "He's terrific. He's just so energizing. He's so comfortable being himself."

Former player and Stanley Cup-winning coach Terry Crisp, now a Predators TV color analyst, was on the phone with his grandkids in Calgary the other night and all they could talk about was the outfit that Subban wore to the game and how Subban scored on his first-ever regular season shot as a Predator.

In the 18 years he has been part of the club in various capacities, Crisp said he has never felt a buzz around the team like the one surrounding this version of the Predators -- and Subban is a big part of that.

Crisp admitted that he initially wondered if there might be some backlash about trading Weber, the captain and iconic defenseman.

"But there's been none of that," he said.

And Subban has done more than just singing an old Johnny Cash tune at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge (although that was pretty magical) to connect with his new community. What people didn't know -- at least not from the get-go -- was that in addition to visiting Tootsie's for his impromptu sing-along, Subban also dropped by a local police precinct with food for the staff.

"I like everything about him," said Predators GM David Poile. "He makes lots of touches, whether it's on the ice or off the ice."

Two top-10 defensemen were traded one-for-one at a time when the salary cap makes finding and keeping these kinds of players so difficult. That fact alone suggests the sheer enormity of the deal and its many layers.

But you don't have to spend much time with Subban to realize that there is little that is complicated about him -- and no topic that's off-limits. Like, did he worry about having to change his personality with a new team in a new country?

"First of all, the team that traded for me, the first thing that they told me was they wanted me to be who I was," Subban said. "I don't think it's fair for anybody to ask anyone to be someone they're not. I would never ask any of my teammates or even my coach to be someone they're not. I think what makes us all unique as people is how different we are, our personalities."

Subban is nothing if not self-aware and wholly comfortable in his own skin. So he didn't waste much time soul-searching about why he was dealt. In short, he gave little thought to being someone else just because he had been traded.

"I think if you struggle to be comfortable in your own skin, you're going to live a very unhappy life," said the 27-year-old 2013 Norris Trophy winner. "You have to be comfortable with who you are. And understand who you are and own it. I think ultimately, that's what people are going to respect about you. Because if you aren't who you are, then who are you?"

But he knows that.

"That doesn't mean you can't evolve and you can't change and you can't be a better person and be a better hockey player, but you are who you are," he said.

It's very early in this season and thus very early in the Subban era in Nashville. And whether the Cash-a-thon might actually take place sometime next summer, well, that's just a mug's game.

But some things are undeniable. This Predators team is as talented as any that has ever been iced by Nashville. And the expectations are higher than ever before. Subban's presence here a significant part of that dynamic.

Nashville fans are getting used to the fact their franchise is under a larger spotlight; again, that is due in large part to Subban's presence.

"He brings a lot of attention from across the continent that we've never experienced here," said team president and CEO Sean Henry.

And the great thing about Subban is that whatever he is doing -- whether it's dressing up like Jaromir Jagr at last year's All-Star Game in Nashville or grabbing a baby and posing for pictures or, yes, singing country songs -- there's something completely authentic about it all.

"He's not doing it for any reason, but that's who he is," Henry said. "He's having fun, and there's something contagious about someone who just has fun. I don't care what you do."

Funny, it's actually kind of simple when you look at it like that.