The Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, and Habs star defenceman P.K. Subban settled on a long term contract that will keep the eldest Subban brother in a Habs sweater for the next eight seasons.
The agreement settled a second contract dispute between the player and team in less than two years, as Subban was basically forced into a “bridge” contract two years ago, after holding out of the beginning of the lockout shortened 2013 season.
So, was the team, and more specifically GM Bergevin, right to sign Subban to a short term deal two years ago at a low cap hit of 2.875 million dollars?
Coming out of his entry level deal in 2013, Subban was reportedly looking for a five year deal worth five million per season. The team refused to sign the defender long term, and much like they did with Carey Price, gave the player a two year offer, that would bridge the gap between entry level deal and big time money.
In the two years that Subban earned less than three million against the cap, he was good enough to win a Norris Trophy, and Olympic gold, was the number one defenceman on a Habs team that won a division title once, and made it to the Eastern Conference Final once as well. That is a lot of value for a guy who was making 2.875 million per season, especially when you consider he was the best player on the team aside from Price.
So the team wins big in the first two years, since they were able to save over two million per year on the cap, and had themselves a star defenceman.
But was it really worth saving 2.125 million per year for just two seasons, before a much bigger payday kicks in?
If the reports from two years ago are true, Subban could be under contract for the next three years at 5 million dollars per year. Instead he will earn 9 million against the cap. So the team saved 2.125 million for two years, but cost themselves four million per year for three years.
Sounds like a big win for Subban over the next three seasons, especially in 2016-17, when he will pocket 11 million dollars, instead of five.
It is starting to look like the team should have given Subban his big contract years ago when they had the chance. However, you have to consider what it would have cost to resign Subban in 2017, when his hypothetical five year deal from 2013 would have expired.
The dynamic defenceman is now locked up until 2022, and will come with a cap hit of nine million from 2017 (when he would have been up for a new deal) until 2022.
So the question now becomes, had Bergevin given Subban a five year deal in 2013, would he have been able to sign him to another five year deal in 2017 at 9 million per year?
My guess is no, and not even close. You see, with the bridge contract, and now an eight year extension, the Montreal Canadiens will avoid any potential unrestricted free agency until 2022. Had they given Subban a five year deal when the 2013 lockout lifted, Subban would be in line to be a UFA in 2017.
It is no secret that UFA’s make significantly more per season than RFA’s, because suddenly the player has all the leverage. Negotiations between the player and team this summer were obviously difficult at times, but as an RFA, Subban ultimately had no choice but to sign with Montreal or not play in the NHL next year. The fact he was still ale to get nine million from the team as an RFA just shows how much value he brings to the Canadiens.
Had Subban been a UFA, and able to sign with any team in the league, he could command a much larger offer from the Habs, because if they don’t give him the big money, someone else will and the Canadiens would lose him for nothing.
Had Subban entered the 2016-17 season as a five million dollar player, and a potential UFA, with an ever increasing salary cap ceiling that will likely be well over 80 million in 2017, the Canadiens would have been forced to give him at least 10 million per year, and perhaps as much as 12 million. This is where contracts are heading with the cap climbing year after year, and soon a player making 10 million per year will be a regular occurrence.
Also, with Subban signing his biggest NHL contract now, instead of in three years time, the Canadiens have a stud defenceman locked up at big money between the ages of 25 and 33, instead of 28 and 36, when there would be a much higher chance of him declining in the later years of his deal.
This is not a contract where you expect the player to be good for most of it and then not live up to his cap hit towards the end. Subban should still be a dominant NHL defenceman when his contract expires, making the timing of this extension perfect for both Subban and the Montreal Canadiens.
So the bridge contract that Bergevin forced Subban into signing was a great move for two years, but will cost the team for the next three seasons. However, after the 2016-17 season, Subban’s nine million dollar cap hit will be significantly lower than it would be had he been scheduled to be a UFA in 2017. The final five years of this extension become a big win for the team, and there is no telling how much the timing of the bridge contract will save the Montreal Canadiens for the duration of P.K. Subban’s NHL career.