The New Jersey Devils are back on the ice together for the first time since March of the foul year that was 2020. With a young team in rebuild mode, they have a clean slate in the freshly minted East division — a division that includes the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Washington Capitals. As the elder statesman of his team’s defensive unit, PK Subban has announced a renewed commitment to being a better leader for the young group.
At 31, Subban enters his 11th NHL season and second with the Devils. Interestingly, last season was only the second time the former Norris Trophy winner missed the playoffs. After signing an eight-year, $72 million contract ($9 million AAV) with the Montreal Canadiens back in 2014 he has had some good and bad times over that time. Last season was not one of the good ones.
Over 68 games, in which the Devils won 28, Subban registered seven goals and 11 assists – a dramatic drop off in production, even if it was a shortened season. For example, in 63 games during his last season with Nashville (2018-19) he managed nine goals and 22 assists. Even that, however, seems like a different player from his career best 60-point season in 2014-15 in Montreal.
Turning the Page
Subban is still young enough to show that he is an elite player, and feels he can help New Jersey become a playoff team once again. “I still feel I can get better, so I want to continue to work with our coaching staff and my teammates,” he said. “A big thing, too, is just jelling as a team, getting used to playing with new teammates.”
The Devils have made some solid offseason alterations and still have a league high $14 million in salary cap room. However, they are nowhere near a playoff team in what I would argue is the toughest of the new temporary divisions. That means he has one additional season to help them reach the post season as his current and overpriced contract will expire after the 2021-22 season.
I always found it intriguing that Montreal traded him, but it was no secret that there was friction within that dressing room. But then, for him to be traded again seemed like confirmation of a larger issue. That, or Nashville Predator GM David Poile saw a 30-year-old player whose best days were over.
It is obvious that Subban still has a lot to prove. Not just as a player, but as a teammate. These next two seasons will have a direct impact on how he finishes up his career. As a fan, it is good to hear a professional athlete acknowledge that he is still trying to improve – on and off the ice. Now it is up to him to prove to himself and the Devils that he is still capable of being an impact player.
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