VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The traditional team-by-team roll call to open the second day of the NHL draft hadn’t yet begun when the league’s looming salary-cap crunch began overshadowing the final six rounds Saturday.
Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban is off to New Jersey. Former Sharks captain Patrick Marleau, a 21-year veteran, is headed to Carolina. And center T.J. Miller, one year into a five-year $26.25 million contract, was traded to Vancouver.
The common denominator spurring each of the trades were teams seeking to shed salaries to address more pressing roster needs before the NHL’s free agency period opens July 1. And the urgency to make the trades became more real when the league and NHL Players’ Association announced next year’s salary cap was set at $81.5 million — $1.5 million lower than initially projected.
“We had to make a business decision,” Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said about trading Subban.
And then there was Toronto Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas, who only two days ago suggested there was “a strong chance” Marleau would be back for the final year of his contract.
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“I think everyone here knows how we feel about Patrick Marleau and what he has done for our organization,” Dubas said, noting he kept Marleau informed of trade talks. “We didn’t want to do one of those trades where it was moving a salary or a cap hit that was going to take anybody off our roster.”
Losing Marleau and his $6.2 million salary provides financial flexibility for Toronto to re-sign Mitch Marner. Toronto’s first-round pick in 2015, Marner is a restricted free agent after completing his three-year entry level contract.
Tampa Bay was willing to give up Miller in order to try to re-sign free-agent center Brayden Point. As a result, Vancouver added a versatile center in exchange for minor-league goalie Marek Mazanec and two draft picks — including a conditional 2020 first-round selection
The trades started before Ottawa opened the second round by selecting American center Shane Pinto at No. 32 overall, and pushing the conclusion of the draft into the background.
The Devils came away the big winners.
A day after taking American center Jack Hughes at No. 1 overall, New Jersey acquired Subban. The Predators picked up defensemen Steven Santini and Jeremy Davies, the 34th pick in this year’s draft and a second-rounder next year.
Marleau, meanwhile, has a decision to make as to whether he’ll play for Carolina or have the team offer him a buyout. The key for Carolina in the deal was acquiring a conditional first-round pick in next year’s draft.
What was initially considered a deep pool of unrestricted free agents is beginning to dwindle with defenseman Erik Karlsson re-signing with the Sharks, forward Jeff Skinner re-signing with Buffalo, and Philadelphia acquiring and signing center Kevin Hayes.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/P-K-Subban-Patrick-Marleau-trades-overshadow-14030873.php.