May 29, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) handles the puck during the second period against the New York Rangers in game six of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

What is a Captaincy Worth to the Montreal Canadiens?

Though the offseason has been slow for the Habs, the one story that’s been on our minds consistently has been that of the Montreal-Subban deal.

Subban recently went to arbitration with his contract negotiations, preventing him from receiving an offer sheet from any other NHL club. His contract is up for renewal after he signed a bridge deal two years ago, for $2.85 million per year, and taking his previous salary into account, he is due quite a payday.

Unfortunately, the Canadiens, known for being a thrifty team, may not want to pay out.

Subban is consistently in the top 10 of the NHL’s defenders, all of whom earn a significantly larger income than he did per year under his bridge deal.

Below is a chart of this season’s top 10 NHL defenders, ranked by total points. Information was taken from CapGeek, NHL.com, and ExtraSkater.

Player
Team
Overall Salary
Duration of Deal
Cap Hit / Year
Points 2013-14
CorsiREL*
QUALCOMP**
1. Erik KarlssonOttawa Senators $45.5m7 years$6.5m74 +4.3%29.0%
2. Duncan Keith Chicago Blackhawks $72m.13 years$5.538m61+2.0%28.9%
3. Shea WeberNashville Predators$110m 14 years $7.875m 56-0.7%29.6%
4. Victor Hedman Tampa Bay Lightning$20m5 years$4m55+4.9%28.9%
5. P.K. SubbanMontreal Canadiens$5.75m 2 years $2.875m 53+5.1%28.8%
6. Keith YandlePhoenix (AZ) Coyotes $26.25m 6 years$5.25m53+1.2%28.2%
7. Alex PietrangeloSt. Louis Blues$45.5m7 years$6.5m51+2.9%29.5%
8. James WisniewskiColumbus Blue Jackets$33m6 years$5.5m51+5.5%28.7%
9. Niklas Kronwall Detroit Red Wings$33.25m7 years$4.75m49+0.9%29.6%
10. Mark Giordano*** Calgary Flames$20.1m5 years$4.02m47+10.3%29.6%

*CorsiREL or Relative Coris is essentially a shots differential statistic against the rest of the team. It indicates the raw EV Corsi of one player relative to the rest of the team’s raw EV Corsi when said player is not on the ice.

**QUALCOMP or Quality of Competition measures exactly that: the quality of the players said player faces on the ice. A high QUALCOMP indicates the player faces good competitors, while a lower QUALCOMP indicates the opposite.

***Brent Burns is listed on the NHL’s website as the 10th defender and Giordano the 11th, but Burns played primarily as a forward last season and should not be counted here.

 

While Subban’s CorsiREL isn’t the highest, it is still top three, though his QUALCOMP is one of the lowest for the top 10 defenders. His points production puts him at fifth out of the top 10 defenders.

Additionally, Subban won the Norris Trophy in 2013, up against Ryan Suter and Kris Letan, who earned a respective $7.5 million/year and $7.25 million/year to Subban’s $2.8 million/year.

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announces Nikita Scherbak (not pictured) as the number twenty-six overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announces Nikita Scherbak (not pictured) as the number twenty-six overall pick to the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

As such, Montreal could theoretically get Subban for a deal that is exactly the average for a top-10 defender, as his numbers average out to put him smack-dab in the middle of the list. That gives Subban a $45 million deal over 9 years, which would break down to a cap hit of $5 million a year, surprisingly low for a defender of his caliber. Ignoring signing bonuses and the like, a paycheck of $5 million per year is incredibly cheap for Montreal, and will likely carry Subban right through his most productive years.

However, none of his fellow D-men on said list are the captains of their team. Subban’s work this year in contract negotiations — such as going to arbitration in order to avoid receiving offer sheets from other teams — and as a positive presence in the locker room suggest he is on the shortlist for captaincy this upcoming season.

Captains put in a lot of extra work both on and off the ice. They give the pep talks, check in on the rookies, and hold the team together with spirit gum and their bare hands. They are often the ones who coordinate social activities, not to mention their more official duties as the team’s representative both to the zebras and in front of the media.

Taking that into account, the question is no longer what should the Habs pay one of the best defenders in the league, but rather:

What is the captaincy worth to a team?

As captains vary from team to team, I’ve compared only Original Six teams captains to a player on their own team with similar CorsiREL and QUALCOMP to get a better idea of what their work as a captain is worth to the team. (Bear in mind, two of the following captains have been traded, one during the season.)

While this is problematic in itself as factoring in age, size, when players entered the league and more nebulous factors, such as mindset, will invariably change the way a player approaches the game, looking at players within the same club does answer why one player is valued over the other, as captains don’t necessarily lead their team in points.

Using relative Extra Skater’s oh-so-handy dashboard stats for the Relative Corsi and Quality of Competition during the 2013-2014 season as measurement was the best way to find similarly-gifted players, though I am welcome to any suggestions one might have to accurately narrow the parameters. To keep things more even I did also take into account number of games played over the length of season, though it is not noted in the chart below.

Captain
Team
Overall Salary
Duration of Deal
Cap Hit / Year
Points 2013-14
CorsiREL*
QUALCOMP **
Brian Gionta Montreal Canadiens$12.75m3 years$4.25m40-1.7%29.5%
Comp: Rene BourqueMontreal Canadiens$20m 6 years$3.3m16-1.5%27.9%
Jonathan ToewsChicago Blackhawks$84m8 years$10.5m68+5.5%30.3%
Comp: Marian HossaChicago Blackhawks$63.3m12 years$5.275m 60+3.7%30.0%
Zdeno CharaBoston Bruins$45.5m7 years$6.9m40+1.8%29.9%
Comp: Torey KrugBoston Bruins$5.1m3 years$916,66740+2.1%27.6%
Ryan CallahanNew York Rangers $34.8m6 years$5.8m25 (45 games) -0.9%29.1%
Comp: Michael Del ZottoNew York Rangers $5.1m2 years$2.55m 11-1.4%27.8%
Dion PhaneufToronto Maple Leafs$49m7 years$7m 31-2.8%30.1%
Comp: Nikolai KuleminToronto Maple Leafs$16.75m4 years$4.1m20-2.0%29.0%
Henrik Zetterberg Detroit Red Wings$73m12 years $6.08m48+3.7%30.3%
Comp: Pavel DatsyukDetroitRed Wings$22.5m3 years$7.5m37+3.8%29.9%

 

As you can see from the data gathered above, the comparable players are paid significantly less than their captain counterparts, and have shorter contracts overall. Averaging the difference in salary out, the average comparable is paid $27 million less than his captain over 4.5 fewer years. Though it is worth noting that the Canadiens are the only team to pay their captain less than his comparable, the overall trend would suggest this is an anomaly.

As such, P.K. Subban’s salary, should he become the Canadiens next captain, should be extended by 4.5 (let’s call it 4) years and $27 million, making him worth $72 million over 13 years to the Habs, or a cap hit of a little under $6 million per year.

Obviously this is still incredibly low, and rumor currently has it that Subban and the Habs are in deadlock over a difference of $3 million per year. Taking everything into account, $72 million over 13 years is a good starting place for the team and Subban to get things going.

 

Should Subban be named captain, how much should he be paid?

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