P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens Arbitration Offers Pointless; Long Term Deal Is only Solution

The Montreal Canadiens and star defenseman P.K. Subban have sent in their asking prices for the arbitration hearing that is set for Friday afternoon. The Habs have set their price as 5.25 million, while the Subban camp is asking for 8.5 million.

Since Subban elected for arbitration, it is up to the team to decide whether the arbitrator’s ruling will be for a one year or a two year deal, and the Canadiens have decided on a one year contract. This makes sense, since a one year deal would keep Subban as a restricted free agent next season, but a two year term would make him a potential unrestricted free agent on July 1st 2016.

Dec 31, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Montreal Canadiens defensemen P. K. Subban (76) takes 3rd period slap shot against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

If this goes to the arbitrator, they will decide what Subban will make next season, and one would have to believe the ruling would be much closer to Subban’s ask of 8.5 than the Habs low offer of 5.25, considering Subban’s accomplishments, talents, potential and what he already means to this team at just 25 years of age.

However, trying to figure out what an arbitrator would rule Subban is worth is almost pointless, since both the player and the team would be wise to agree on a long term deal before tomorrow’s hearing.

Arbitration hearings have a reputation as being a place where both player and team scream insults at one another trying to get the arbitrator to choose a side. Though the process is much more professional than this, the Canadiens do run the risk of insulting their superstar if they try and compare him to the wrong players, and force him into a one year contract.

Subban has taken abuse from fans for many years, and can surely handle someone saying he is not as good as Drew Doughty and should earn less, even if that someone is Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.

May 22, 2014; New York, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) carries the puck against New York Rangers right wing Mats Zuccarello (36) during the third period in game three of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

However, Subban felt he deserved much more than an average of 2.95 million when these parties last negotiated two years ago, and he may become tired of taking short term deals if he is forced to do so once again.

Most other teams around the league ensure that their young core players are locked up long term with a pretty payday to boot, while Subban would be forced into a third year of short term “show me” deals. He must believe he has shown enough by now to earn a lengthy deal, and the team should be just as excited as the player to get a seven or eight year deal done.

May 10, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) battles for the puck with Boston Bruins right wing Reilly Smith (18) during the second period of game five of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Subban has been the Canadiens best defenseman for the past two years, proving during his first “show me” contract that he has the tools to be a number one defender on a good team. Subban won a Norris Trophy in 2013, and followed that up with a 53 point season, and 14 points in 17 playoff games.

The number of playoff games may be more impressive than any scoring statistic that Subban put up in the past, since without him, the Habs would have played a lot less games this spring. Subban was a dominating force throughout a seven game series victory over the Boston Bruins in the second round, showing he could step up in big situations and be the driving force of a team that goes on a lengthy postseason run.

Subban is not the best defenseman in the entire league, but he is in the conversation of top defenders, and is a definite number one guy on most teams. He is the type of player that teams would love to have so they can build their team around him. The Montreal Canadiens are lucky to have selected a franchise player with the 43rd pick in the 2007 draft, and now it is time to reward him with a long term contract.

Apr 16, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) shoots against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the first period in game one of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

So what is the holdup, if Subban wants to be a Montreal Canadien for a long time, and the Canadiens want Subban to be here for a long time. Well, we are talking about the biggest contract ever to be signed by a Montreal Canadiens player, and that takes some time to hash out. Carey Price is currently in the middle of the most lucrative contract in the history of the Canadiens, a six year pact that will pay him a total of 39 million dollars, an average of 6.5 per season.

Subban is going to earn the six years for sure, and likely one or two more, but he will also come in at a higher cap hit than Price. Don’t let the Canadiens arbitration offer fool you, they don’t expect to get him at anything near 5.25 million dollars, even for one year.

Mar 27, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings left wing Tomas Tatar (21) skates with the puck as Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) defends in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. The Canadiens won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The arbitrator rules somewhere in the middle of the two proposals, so if the Canadiens are going to arbitration and will get a one year reward, they want it somewhere around 7 million. To get a 7 million dollar ruling, you don’t submit a 7 million dollar proposal, you submit something significantly lower, knowing the ruling will come in the middle.

The recent deal signed by Lars Eller should give us an indication of what is going to happen on Subban’s deal. During the next two seasons, in which Subban is an RFA and basically under team control, the cap hit will be considerably lower than the rest of the deal. This ensures Subban gets his major payday, but delays the big bucks in order to keep the cap hit down.

Keeping in mind that he is an RFA for the next two seasons, you can expect Subban to make much less over the first two years of a long term deal. I would guess he comes in at 6.5 million for the first two years, then gets bumped up to 8 million for two years, followed by two years at 9 and then two years in which he earns 10 million.

Mar 24, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban (76) shoots the puck during the second period against the Boston Bruins at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

All totaled, that is 67 million dollars over an eight year contract, which would be a 8.375 million dollar cap hit per season.

Don’t let the 5.25 million dollar proposal by the Canadiens cloud your judgement, as that is not even an offer, it is a low end of a window where the team knows they would meet in the middle anyway. Besides, that is only is the two parties settle on a one year deal, and that is not going to happen.

Subban is not going to sign a one year contract, he is going to sign the biggest contract in franchise history. In fact, he is almost going to double the next largest contract in franchise history, and he has earned every penny.