As usual, Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has a very busy offseason ahead of him. With re-signings, a draft, free agency and trade possibilities all staring at him in the next month, Bergevin has one huge decision that needs to be the first one taken care of, and that is signing P.K. Subban to a long term extension.
Subban has elevated his game once again as he led the Montreal Canadiens postseason run to the Eastern Conference Final, and deserves one of the biggest contract a defenseman has ever signed. He may not be nominated for the Norris Trophy as NHL’s best defenseman this season, but he is the defending champion, and when the voting comes out, I’m sure his name won’t be far behind the three who are up for the award.
Subban finished third on the Habs in points this season, setting a career high with 53, which ranked sixth among defensemen in the league. He also chipped in 23 power play points thanks to his offensive instincts and impressive slap shot from the point, and averaged 24:36 minutes per game, 17th most ice time in the NHL.
He is the undisputed most important skater on the Habs, and further proved that in the postseason. In 17 playoff games, Subban led the team in points with 14, including 7 in a 7 game series victory over the Boston Bruins in round two.
Subban’s offensive game did not need to be proven to anyone, as he has been an excellent skater and point producer since his days with the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League. It was his defensive game that always came under fire, especially early in his career.
He has tidied up that part of his game years ago, but continues to get better and play more against better competition the past few seasons. No player is perfect, so Subban inevitably makes mistakes, but the media coverage of every turnover paints a picture that he can’t play in his own end. Us fans who watch the Habs games know that this is far from the truth, and P.K. has become one of the best defenseman in the league.
However, the question remains, how much is Subban worth right now? Looking around the league, a few defensemen who have recently signed big contract are Kris Letang who carries a 7.25 million dollar cap hit for eight years, and Drew Doughty who will earn 7 million for 8 years. Doughty signed that contract three years ago when the salary cap was much lower, so you can expect Subban to demand even more.
Dion Phaneuf recently signed at 7 million for 7 years, and Subban is a superior player at every aspect of the game, so expect Phaneuf’s contract to help Subban earn even more money. I think a maximum 8 year deal at 8 million per season is the least that Subban would agree to, and it will probably take about 8.5 million per season.
Subban is a restricted free agent, meaning if talks carry into July, the Canadiens have the right to match any offer he receives, but in my opinion they should get this deal done as soon as possible. Two years ago when Subban last signed a contract, talks dragged on through training camp and into the start of the regular season, resulting in the defenseman missing the first few games of the shortened year.
Not only do the Canadiens want to avoid that situation from happening again, more importantly they don’t want to give other teams a chance to make an offer sheet for Subban. Sure, they would have the right to match, but what is stopping a team with tons of cap room from making an extreme offer to a great young defenseman?
Look at what happened to the Nashville Predators in 2012 when they let negotiations with Shea Weber drag into July. The Philadelphia Flyers, desperate for a number one defenseman, threw an offer sheet of 110 million dollars over 14 years at the hulking defender. The Predators were able to match the offer, but it is such an enormous contract, the cash strapped team could soon be sorry that they have one of the best defenseman in the league.
The Canadiens can not afford to let this type of scenario happen with Subban. You never know when a team with a lot of cap space could throw a huge offer and force the hand of the Canadiens. The Colorado Avalanche have over 25 million in cap space and a desperate need for defensemen. Could they put together an offer sheet of seven years with a cap hit of over ten million dollars? Why not.
The Calgary Flames have an aggressive Brian Burke running the ship, and though he said in the past he does not agree with offer sheets, his tune could change if this offer sheet improves his team.
The Anaheim Ducks are not far away from winning a Stanley Cup and have plenty of salary to spend, with most of their team already locked up. Why wouldn’t they consider throwing a huge offer at Subban?
The difference with an RFA offer sheet and signing a UFA is that Montreal would have the opportunity to match the offer, and if they don’t, you get Subban but also give up compensation in the form of a boatload of first round draft picks. By boatload, I mean four first round picks.
I don’t think the Ducks would really worry about losing four first round picks if they get Subban back in the deal. They are a deep and talented team that are already winning the Pacific Division without him, so it is not like they would be drafting in the top five after adding a new number one defenseman. In fact, they wouldn’t be drafting in the top 25, so why not go for it?
The point is, if Montreal does not get this contract done right away, they are running the risk of letting other teams get in the middle of negotiations. Even if they do match any offer, the offers could be much higher if other teams get involved.
My advice to Bergevin: ignore all of your other commitments and get Subban signed immediately. There are lots of other contracts to take care of, including Andrei Markov and Lars Eller, but everyone on this team falls in line behind Subban, and their contract talks should be the same.