PK Subban was almost a Vancouver Canuck.
In this week’s episode of the 31 Thoughts Podcast, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shared the series of events that could have resulted in Subban heading to the West Coast at the 2016 NHL Draft.
While the Canucks’ interest in Subban was obvious at the time, we never knew just how close a deal came to be. Turns out, pretty close.
“We’ve been one of the teams that’ve talked to (the Canadiens about Subban) but we haven’t gone down the path to make us believe that that’s something that’s going to be real or not,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said in an interview with TSN 1040 radio at the time.
“If it depends on the pick who’s there at fifth, that could play into it, so there’s a lot of moving pieces where we’re nowhere near close.”
Benning was remarkably honest, and was later fined $50,000 by the NHL for tampering because he spoke about a player under contract with another team.
It turned out that the player the Canucks were most rumoured to draft, Pierre-Luc Dubois, was the key to a potential deal with Montreal.
Here’s a recap of the top 10 picks of the 2016 draft:
1. Auston Matthews (Toronto)
2. Patrik Laine (Winnipeg)
3. Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus)
4. Jesse Puljujarvi (Edmonton)
5. Olli Juolevi (Vancouver)
6. Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary)
7. Clayton Keller (Arizona)
8. Alexander Nylander (Buffalo)
9. Mikhail Sergachev (Montreal)
10. Tyson Jost (Colorado)
“Vancouver has confirmed this to me. There was a chance the Canucks were going to get PK Subban that night,” Friedman explained. “The problem was that Pierre-Luc Dubois was not going to fall to Vancouver’s pick, because Montreal knew Columbus was taking him. If Montreal believed that Dubois was going to be available at five, PK Subban could have been a Vancouver Canuck.”
Presumably, Vancouver would have had to include more pieces to secure an All-Star defenceman like Subban. Dubois would have given Montreal the future No. 1 centre they’ve coveted for a while, and a French Canadian one at that.
Co-host Jeff Marek said on the same podcast that the Edmonton Oilers were close to dealing the No. 4 pick to the New York Rangers. The Rangers wanted to take Clayton Keller, but the deal fell through once Jesse Puljujarvi fell to Edmonton’s pick.
It appears that Columbus was hellbent on taking Dubois, so in some ways, the deal was dead before it ever had a chance. A source told Daily Hive that the Canucks expected Dubois to be picked by the Blue Jackets, so they weren’t shocked at the time like the rest of us.
But if forces from above hadn’t conspired against the Canucks in the draft lottery, it appears that Subban could have very well been involved in a trade to Vancouver instead of the eventual trade that sent him to Nashville for Shea Weber five days later.
Consider that 2016 was the first year that the top three picks were decided by a draft lottery. Had the previous system been in play, Toronto would have won the lottery, with Edmonton and Vancouver (the teams with the next worst records in 2015-16) picking No. 2 and 3.
And had a team other than Columbus won the third overall pick, there’s a good chance that Puljujarvi – and not Dubois – would have been picked at No. 3, too.
In any case, we’re left to wonder what could have been.