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Montreal Canadiens GM insists he’s not shopping Subban

A file photo of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban.
A file photo of Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin wouldn’t go as far to say never, but insisted that his team is not shopping P.K. Subban.

Speaking after the GM meetings on Thursday, which precede the NHL draft in Buffalo, Bergevin sought to quiet speculation about his Norris trophy-winning defenceman following comments earlier in the day from Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning, who said he inquired on Subban.

“It’s not even listening to offers is I’m taking calls,” Bergevin said. “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.”

Asked if it was realistic that a trade could take place with Subban, who’s posted more points than every defenceman but Erik Karlsson over the past five seasons, Bergevin replied: “I would say no.”

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“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.”

The Canadiens are coming off a wildly disappointing season which saw them race out to a 19-4-3 start only to unravel entirely with No. 1 goaltender Carey Price sidelined by injury.

If not quite to the Norris trophy levels he established in winning the award in 2013, Subban still posted 51 points in 68 games, tied for ninth among NHL defenders. He also boasted positive puck possession numbers. He averaged more than 26 minutes per game, trailing only four others at his position.

Still, an undercurrent of discontent lingered last season, highlighted by critical comments from head coach Michel Therrien following a mid-February game against Colorado, one that saw a Subban error lead to the game-deciding goal.

Bergevin, though, said he and the organization were happy with Subban and his growth in Montreal.

“Personally, we’ve never said anything (bad) about P.K.,” said Bergevin. “Off the ice, he’s busy, but he performs, he works, he’s on time, he does all the right things so what he does off the ice it’s good for him.

“P.K., since I’ve been in Montreal, his game has improved a lot,” Bergevin continued. “Last year as a team, and I’m sure not blaming P.K. Subban, as a team we didn’t get the job done.”

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Bergevin said he was pleased to learn recently that Price would be “100 per cent” for the start of next season. Price, who is expected to play for Canada at the World Cup in September, injured his knee in late November and did not return for the remainder of last season.

The Canadiens, who finished with the fourth-worst record in the Eastern Conference in his absence, hold the ninth-overall pick at the upcoming draft.

Montreal’s GM was forced to clarify his team’s position on Subban after Benning told TSN Radio in Vancouver that the Canucks had inquired on Subban.

Bergevin said such calls were not unusual. He recalled one on another top Canadiens player two years earlier, an unidentified member of the club who remains with the team to this day.

“It’s part of the other GM’s (job) to do their due diligence on players that are available,” Bergevin said. “I’ve called teams on players in the past that I was 99 per cent (sure weren’t available). I made the call anyways. I’m sure they do the same thing.

“He’s an all-star defenceman,” Bergevin said of Subban. “He’s extremely good. If I would be (on) another team I would be calling too.”

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