Two years ago, the Montreal Canadiens played hardball with up and coming defenseman P.K. Subban, holding firm and forcing a 2 year, bridge contract on the restricted free agent instead of following the trend and giving stars in the making a long term deal right out of their entry level contract.
At the time, the Habs basically told Subban “prove yourself”.
Well, like him or not, Subban did just that. The first year of the deal all he did was win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenseman. In the second year he made the Canadian Olympic team, brought home a gold medal, was 5th in league scoring among defensemen and finished second overall on the team behind Max Pacioretty.
With arbitration looming on Friday, both sides put in their contract offers on Wednesday. The Habs put in an offer for $5.25M next season, while Subban and his agent countered with a request for $8.5M.
While some would look at the numbers and wonder why $5.5M is not enough, but when you look at the comparables it is almost laughable what the Habs had offered. That salary would put Subban in the range of 17-23rd among the highest paid defensemen. Making less than the likes of James Wisniewski, Tyler Myers and Matt Carle.
Meanwhile, Subban’s request of $8.5M would make him the top cap hit next season among blueliners, on a 1 year contract that is not completely unreasonable.
The problem is, after the impending 1 year deal, Subban would again have arbitration rights next season and if you think it is a messy situation this year, image the feeling of disrespect Subban would feel if he had to go through the process again. If the Habs aren’t meeting his request on a long-term deal at this point, what is going to change in the next year to make them up the offer, and what would it take for them to do it.
I have been critical of Subban in the past, but he has definitely earned a long term deal that could be upwards of $8M per year over 8 years. The way salaries are going, I would fork over that much for a player who is not only good on th ice, but is the primary spokesperson for the team and a fan favorite and face of the franchise.
The arbitration process is a messy one, and that is why there has been 1 player actually go through it in the last 3 seasons, and that player had already signed to play in the KHL. The team has to belittle the player’s ability and contribution in order to justify a lower salary, and that is tough for a player to hear. It can ruin relationships, and Subban is a week out from saying he wanted to be a “Hab for life”. If the arbitration process goes down I wonder if he will still have that wish.
The best thing the Habs could do is pony up the dough and get a long-term deal done. Unless they are willing to walk away if Subban gets his $8.5M request, and there is no reason to believe they are, then they need to get the 8 year deal done to lock him up.
As a Senators fan, the best thing that could happen is two messy arbitrations and Subban wanting to stick it to the Habs and do so by joining its closest geographical rival and play on the same blue line as Erik Karlsson. A guy can dream can’t he?