VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Nashville Predators All-Star defenseman P.K. Subban has been traded to the New Jersey Devils for defenseman Steven Santini, prospect Jeremy Davies and a second-round pick in 2019 and 2020, the teams announced Saturday.
Subban, 30, spent the past three seasons with the Predators. This is the second time in three years he has been traded. Subban spent the first seven years of his career with the Montreal Canadiens before they shipped him to Nashville in a blockbuster deal for Shea Weber in 2016.
"We appreciate P.K.'s contribution to the Predators and the Nashville community over the past three seasons, which have seen our organization have unprecedented success," Predators general manager David Poile said in a statement. "He was an integral part of our run to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, the 2018 Presidents' Trophy and back-to-back Central Division titles. His work off the ice speaks for itself -- he was an impactful member of our community, especially through the groundbreaking Blueline Buddies initiative.
"We had to make a business decision. With an aim at strengthening our forward corps this offseason, and the continued strength of our defensive group, we felt it was necessary to clear up salary cap space this way."
It has been a big draft weekend for New Jersey, which selected American-born center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick Friday night.
Subban, the 2013 Norris Trophy winner, was limited to 63 games last season and saw his ice time reduced to 22:40 a night after averaging more than 26 minutes a night between 2014 and 2016. His offensive numbers dipped last season as well, as he posted only nine goals and 22 assists.
He carries a $9 million cap hit on his contract, which runs through 2021-22. It is the third-highest cap hit for a defenseman in the NHL, trailing only San Jose's Erik Karlsson ($11.5 million) and Los Angeles' Drew Doughty ($11 million).
Nashville will not retain any of Subban's salary, which means it is a huge cost-clearing move for the team. The Predators are now expected to be active in free agency and should be among the leading contenders for center Matt Duchene, among other high-profile available players.
Devils GM Ray Shero said he and Poile held discussions for the last "four or five days" about a potential Subban deal.
"Some teams are under pressure cap-wise, and they were one of them. He was into some different thing, and I wasn't sure if it was going to come back around to us," Shero said.
It did on Saturday morning, ahead of the 34th pick that the Devils sent to Nashville. One of the primary reasons the trade happened was the Devils' ability to take on all of Subban's salary.
How important is cap space as an asset?
"Really important!" Shero said, moving his face down to the microphone for extra amplification of the point. "It's an asset to be able to take it. For Nashville, and what they're looking to do -- re-signing Roman Josi and some other things -- and they have a good defense [already], those are the opportunities that you look for."
This is Subban's third team in five seasons, having been traded twice. Shero said any concerns about how he'll "fit" on the Devils is unfounded.
"Personality's great. If this was the NBA ... they have personality. There's nothing wrong with that. P.K. Subban is a great kid. He's got enthusiasm. And I like that. Freshness is good," Shero said. "Adding talent is one thing. But the whole idea of P.K.'s enthusiasm for the game and for life, I think that's a real positive for us and for the NHL."
In a social media post after the trade was announced, Subban thanked Nashville and its fans and expressed excitement about his next stop in New Jersey.
#Smashville - I love you! Thank you to the @PredsNHL team, teammates, fans and community for embracing me over the past three years. Ready for this next chapter... @NJDevils are you ready for the Subbanator? 😈☝🏿👀 pic.twitter.com/rkPkkqRKRT— P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) June 22, 2019
Subban had a no-movement clause while he was with Montreal, though Nashville did not honor that clause. Poile, always active on the trade market, is extremely stingy with handing out no-movement clauses. The only player on the Predators' current roster who has one is goalie Pekka Rinne.
The Devils missed the playoffs last season but have been expected to make a splash next season. Their biggest priority now is re-signing 2018 MVP Taylor Hall, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
New Jersey also traded 2014 first-round draft pick John Quenneville to the Chicago Blackhawks for winger John Hayden. Quenneville has played 33 games over three seasons with three goals and five assists, while Hayden has eight goals and 14 assists in three seasons.
Nashville was expected to make seismic changes to its roster this offseason, considering the Predators' crunch against the salary cap and the fact that they flamed out in the playoffs for the second straight year, despite hefty expectations after making the Stanley Cup Final in 2017.
Santini, 24, has played in 114 games for the Devils over the past four seasons, including 39 games last season. He had one goal and three assists while averaging 16:39 ice time a night.
Davies, 22, was a seventh-round pick of the Devils in 2016 but has since raised his profile as a strong offensive-minded defenseman prospect. Davies played for Northeastern University for three seasons.
The Predators traded the No. 34 pick that they got from New Jersey in the Subban deal to the Philadelphia Flyers for picks Nos. 45 and 65. They used those picks to select wingers Egor Afanasyev and Alexander Campbell.