Five NHL teams made potentially franchise altering moves (some good, some bad) on Wednesday afternoon, and it all happened during one chaotic hour on what was an otherwise quiet summer afternoon.
It was between 3 p.m. ET and 4 p.m ET that we found out that Taylor Hall, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and former top-five pick Adam Larsson were all changing teams in blockbuster trades, while Steven Stamkos, the one big-ticket free agent set to hit the market in two days, decided to remain with the Tampa Bay Lightning and continue playing for the only NHL team he has ever known.
It was complete madness from the very beginning.
There is no way Edmonton is that crazy... Things started to get moving just before 3 p.m. ET when TSN's Oilers reporter Ryan Rishaug started a series of Tweets talking about how a Hall trade was closer than ever before. In hindsight, these three Tweets would be an ominous look at what was lurking around the corner for Oilers fans.
Basically it boils down to this: The Oilers were so desperate to improve what was perhaps the worst defense in the NHL that they finally decided they had to trade one of the league's best wingers in a deal they knew they would not win.
It seemed almost impossible to believe -- even for the Oilers -- that an NHL team would make such a decision. It would have been easy to just dismiss is it as your run-of-the-mill summer rumor mill fodder.
Then the Oilers went ahead and did it by trading Hall to the New Jersey Devils straight up for Adam Larsson, a player that is nearly the same age as Hall, counts only $2 million less against the salary cap and isn't anywhere near as accomplished as a player.
The company line out of Edmonton is that the Oilers needed to upgrade their defense and Larsson is a highly coveted right-handed defenseman. Both of those things are true. But needing defense and having a desire to add one that is right-handed and then trading your best player to land one that is mostly unproven is not what smart team-building looks like.
It is what desperation looks like.
The Devils finally picked up an interesting player. Even when they were winning Stanley Cups in the 1990s and early 2000s the Devils were never an incredibly entertaining team. Excitement simply has not been a part of their DNA, and it has only been made worse over the past few years when the team was not just dull on the ice, it was also bad.
In Hall, they are getting the type of dynamic, fast, skilled player the team has lacked for about five years now since Zach Parise left in free agency to join the Minnesota Wild and Ilya Kovalchuk returned to Russia to play in the KHL.
The only things that have kept Hall from being a bigger name in the NHL are injuries and the fact his talent has been wasted in NHL Siberia.
Since joining the NHL in 2010 Hall has average 0.86 points per game, a level of production that places him 22nd among active forwards during that stretch, right between Phil Kessel and Joe Pavelski. That is pretty good company to keep. He is a top-line player in the prime of his career signed to a team-friendly long-term contract. These players do not grow on trees, and they almost never become available.
Unless Peter Chiarelli is the general manager of the team that has them.
The Devils have a pretty solid collection of young defenders with upside, and while Larsson has the potential to be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 defenseman in the NHL, a player like him is significantly easier to find than a player like Hall.
It is a move a team like New Jersey -- or any team -- should make 100 percent of the time.
Montreal actually traded P.K. Subban and it makes no sense. Just before the NHL draft rumors started to circulate that the Canadiens might actually do the unthinkable and trade P.K. Subban. It was the perfect storm of Subban rumors finding a way of creeping into the discussion, and the fact he had a no-trade clause kicking in July 1.
Marc Bergevin did his best to try and deny the rumors, but in the process he gave us a very important reminder: General managers lie all the time and their words are usually empty, so take everything they say with more than a few grains of salt.
Here is what Bergevin was saying just before the NHL Draft when he said it was not realistic to expect a Subban trade:
"When a GM calls me I don't know who he's calling me about so I answer the phone. Yes, I've received calls on P.K., but I'm not shopping P.K. Subban. I can tell you that."
"Of course you never say never," he added later. "If somebody offered me half of their team well you've got to make it work, but it's not my intention."
Then it actually happened -- and it did not even take half of another team to get him -- when Subban was sent to the Nashville Predators in a one-for-one swap for Shea Weber.
The question, though, is why did this happen, and what purpose does this serve for the Montreal Canadiens?
Even though Subban is one of the game's best -- not to mention most exciting and entertaining -- players he always seemed to be a target for criticism within the Montreal organization, and they never really seemed to appreciate what they had, whether it was little things like coach Michel Therrien banning him from doing his post-victory "triple low-five" celebration with Carey Price, to larger things like being singled out for costing his team a game, to Bergevin playing hard-ball with him in contract negotiations, resulting in a bridge contract a few years ago that ultimately ended up leading to Subban signing an even larger and more expensive contract than he initially asked for as a restricted free agent.
Here is what Subban said Wednesday following the trade when he was asked if he ever felt unwanted by the Canadiens.
I asked P.K. Subban if he felt unwanted by the Canadiens. pic.twitter.com/xWDsMqv2fY— Adam Vingan (@AdamVingan) June 29, 2016
Subban: "I'm just happy to be in a situation where I can excel and feel good about myself coming to the rink every day." #Preds— Brooks Bratten (@brooksbratten) June 29, 2016
The Canadiens, on the other hand, pretty much confirmed it themselves with the trade because there is no logical reason as to why this trade should ever happen from a hockey or salary cap perspective.
Weber is a not a bad player. Quite the opposite, actually. He might be a little overrated, but he can play. He is still a recognizable player whose name carries a lot clout around the NHL. He has a huge shot, scores a lot of goals and is a big body that hits a lot of people. In other words, he possesses a lot of traits that people associate with defense and are easily noticeable.
The problem is he is also going to be 31 when the season starts, is going to start slowing down at some point (he likely already has) and is still signed for another decade on an absolutely massive contract that will inevitably be an albatross for their salary cap situation.
There is also the likelihood that Subban is the better player right now. Even if he isn't, the gap between them isn't anywhere near enough to justify taking on a substantially worse contract for a player that is four years older and will likely only decline going forward.
The Canadiens found out last season that almost all of their success over the past few years has been the result of having Carey Price, one of the best goalies in the world and one of the few players that can single-handedly change the outcome of a team's season.
When he is healthy, he masks their flaws and makes them look like a competent hockey team.
When he is not, the entire house of cards collapses on itself.
Instead of working to fix the problem of being entirely dependent on a goalie, the Canadiens' solution so far has been to keep the same coach whose system results in Price being asked to face a massive workload and carry the team, while also trading the superstar that was the one legitimate bright spot on an otherwise embarrassing team a year ago after never fully appreciating what they had in him.
In other words: They are just doubling down on the "Carey or bust" approach.
Nashville might have become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. Adding Subban not only gives Nashville what might be the biggest superstar that has ever played for the team (yeah, yeah ... I know Peter Forsberg and Paul Kariya played there, but they were a shell of what they were in their primes by the time they played for the Predators), but it also gives the team an obscenely talented defense that is young, talented and signed long-term. Between Subban, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and Ryan Ellis Nashville's defense is absolutely loaded.
It's also the second top-shelf player the team has added in the past year after adding center Ryan Johansen from the Columbus Blue Jackets for Seth Jones.
Between Subban, the rest of that defense, Filip Forsberg, Johansen and James Neal there is a potential Stanley Cup core in place if they can just get solid goaltending.
Then the biggest free agent frenzy in years never really had a chance to start. For the past few weeks it was a given that Steven Stamkos' decision was going to be the storyline for the summer. He seemed to be headed toward unrestricted free agency where he would be one of the biggest and best players to ever hit the open market where there would be no shortage of teams lining up to sign him.
Then he agreed to an eight-year contract extension with the Lightning two days before the start of free agency during the one day of the year it would get completely lost in the shuffle.
In the end, Stamkos agreed to an eight-year contract worth an average yearly salary of $8.5 million.
It is a huge move for the Lightning because it locks up a franchise player and one of the best goal scorers in the league.
It does create some salary cap issues when it comes to keeping players like Nikita Kucherov and Alex Killorn, both of whom are restricted free agents this summer. But these are the problems that are worth having. You keep the superstars and figure out a way to build the team around them. If it means you have to trim a secondary player or two, you do it because one great player is worth more than two good players.
Stamkos' signing will also have a significant impact on free agency. With him off the market, that means players like Loui Eriksson, Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo are now going to be the top targets when the signing period kicks off at noon ET on Friday.
That, of course, is good news for the players because desperate teams are going to be in the market for anybody that they think can make a difference. Hey, speaking of which... you know who is rumored to be one of the front-runners for Lucic?