Delving into the archives of NHL history, a captivating “what-if” scenario has emerged from the 2016 offseason, as recounted by the popular Twitter account @BigHeadHcky. The account goes into a domino effect tweet regarding the Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens. The topic of the discussion?: A near massive blockbuster trade, where it’s clear now that the Oilers dodged a massive bullet.
That offseason, PK Subban was traded for Shea Weber. It was a huge deal that was announced right around the same time as the Oilers announced they were trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for defenseman Adam Larsson. But, according to this tweet, it was originally the Canadiens and Oilers who were talking about doing business.
As detailed by Big Head Hockey, the Edmonton Oilers would have acquired PK Subban and the 9th overall pick (later becoming Mikael Sergachev, while the Montreal Canadiens would have gained Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, and the 4th overall pick (ultimately Jesse Puljujarvi). While some might argue that the Oilers wouldn’t have Nurse’s big contract on their books if this trade had gone down, the reality is, that Edmonton got extremely lucky by avoiding a deal that would have sent Draisaitl — arguably the second-best player in the NHL — to another team.
** Author’s Note: The original tweet saying Taylor Hall was traded to Montreal was corrected to Weber.
Only a few seasons after the trade, Subban’s game fell off a cliff. Meanwhile, Draisaitl has gone on to be a multi-time 50-goal scorer and 100-point producer with the Oilers, who today are seen as a legitimate contender for the Stanley Cup. Had this trade materialized, the account then details a cascade of events that would have rippled across the NHL landscape as a result.
First, they note that Taylor Hall probably stays in Edmonton and isn’t traded to New Jersey. He then potentially forms a dynamic duo with Connor McDavid, transforming the Oilers’ dynamics within their top six. Meanwhile, Sergachev and Subban could have formed a formidable defensive pairing in Edmonton, drastically altering the makeup of their top four.
While it is noted that Nashville’s remarkable journey to the Stanley Cup Final might never have occurred without Subban and Shea Weber might have retired as a lifelong Predator, the tweet mostly focuses on what happens to the Montreal Canadiens if this trade goes down.
They note that Montreal would have broken a decades-long drought with Draisaitl as their first 100-point player since 1986, but that’s debatable knowing that McDavid isn’t on that team. While it’s fair to argue that Draisaitl’s presence potentially strengthens Montreal’s bid in the 2021 Cup Finals, his career is so heavily tied as a one-two punch with McDavid, that it’s hard to know which way Draisaitl’s career would have gone.
Meanwhile, Darnell Nurse and Jeff Petry could have emerged as a dynamic defensive duo in Montreal, and it’s not clear what kind of contract Nurse would have been playing under currently as it’s less likely the Canadiens would have bridged him twice as the Oilers did.
A different path for Puljujarvi’s development might secured his place in the NHL and his injury situation might not be quite as severe.
One of the Biggest What-Ifs in Hockey Over the Past Decade
We may never truly know how close this deal was to happening, but this tantalizing “what-if” narrative highlights the intricate interconnectedness of NHL history and how a single hypothetical trade could have shaped the destinies of players, teams, and even championship outcomes.
Every player involved might have taken an entirely different path with some repeating their current success elsewhere and others never achieving anything close.
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