Big-moves day pays off most for the East

5:32 PM ET

So, where to begin with one of the most dramatic half hours in NHL transaction history?

A head-swirling span that saw a swap of two premier defensemen in Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators and P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens, and included the trade of a No. 1 overall draft pick in Taylor Hall to the New Jersey Devils that was followed by the news that Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos re-signed with the team for the next eight years.

Let’s just say the collective hockey heart rate is still beating in the red line, even as we begin to consider all that transpired in that magical 30 minutes.

Let’s dive in with a swap of Norris Trophy-worthy defenders and marquee players in Weber and Subban, whose names were not once connected in the ever-swirling trade rumor mill leading up to Wednesday’s blockbuster but whose swapping of teams will have repercussions in both cities for years to come.

Subban is 27 and under contract through 2021-22 with a $9 million cap hit. So much for Nashville being a small-market team.

Weber is about to turn 31 and is under contract through 2025-26 with an annual cap hit of $7.86 million, although his 14-year deal was heavily front-loaded and finishes with a real dollar payout of just $5 million over the last four years of the deal.

The two defensemen, teammates on Canada’s gold medal-winning team in Sochi at the 2014 Olympics, are as similar in stature and profile as they are dissimilar in style and personality.

Over the past three seasons Weber has 58 goals and 152 points and led to the Predators to Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, their deepest playoff run ever.

Now, if Chiarelli can land a free agent defender such as Jason Demers and maybe another veteran piece on the blue line, then maybe this deal feels a little differently in Edmonton.

Certainly the expectation is that by shedding Hall’s salary (he signed a $42 million, seven-year deal back in the summer of 2012), the Oilers will sign free agent Milan Lucic to provide more veteran leadership up front and the entire Oiler picture starts to come into focus.

And finally it seems a bit anticlimactic that we save the most-talked about player over the last month or so for last. But maybe that’s OK for Stamkos and the Lightning, who late Wednesday ended months of speculation by agreeing to an eight-year deal that will pay Stamkos an average of $8.5 million annually to remain a Lightning. His new deal has a full no-movement clause.

Did he leave money on the table by not becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1? Sure. Millions, possibly. Is Tampa the best place for Stamkos to win a Stanley Cup, to ensure his legacy as one of the game’s greats and a critical figure in the Lightning’s history? No question. None.

There are still challenges ahead for GM Steve Yzerman in keeping this talented nucleus together, but it’s hard not to consider the Lightning the early odds-on favorites to lead the Eastern Conference next season, and the return of the captain is no small factor in that belief.

The question is now whether this signing puts in motion a series of dominoes that seem destined to fall fast and furious the moment the free agent market opens at noon ET on July 1.


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