The dust has already settled on the free agency signing period, which could only be described with a less exciting synonym to the word “frenzy”. A few notable names still remain without homes, but it’s the restricted free agents that represent the only real impact talent out on the market. Of the two high-profile RFA, it’s Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban that will take home the largest contract of anyone on the market, regardless of status.
At this point, the Habs surely regret not locking Subban up on more than the bridge contract to which they signed him two years ago. The last time he held RFA status, the two sides came together on a two-year contract worth $5.75 million, a bargain for a guy who went on to win the Norris Trophy in the first year of the deal. With Subban and Montreal now set to head to arbitration, this deal will, unquestionably, cost the organization a great deal more.
But how much more exactly? Nobody is going to offer sheet the 25-year-old defenseman. A. It would have happened by now, and B. Everyone in the National Hockey League that isn’t the Philadelphia Flyers are much too terrified to use one anyway, and they lack the cap space. Which means the Habs have some time to play around with here, and can ensure Subban will remain with the organization for a very long time.
Early reports way back in January had Subban asking for $8 million a year to start. That would instantly give him the highest cap hit in the league among blue liners. The top five right now, in terms of contract AAV, are as follows:
- Shea Weber ($7,857,143/year)
- Ryan Suter ($7,538,462/year)
- Kris Letang ($7,250,000/year)
- Brian Campbell ($7,142,875/year)
- Drew Doughty ($7,000,000/year)
There have been whispers that Subban was looking for something in the Erik Karlsson/Alex Pietrangelo range with a cap hit to the tune of $6.5 million a year across seven years. If that’s the case, then the Habs should jump at the chance to lock him up on that sort of deal, as it would represent a sizeable decrease from what he’s actually worth.
You could make the argument that P.K. Subban represents a better entity on the blue line than any of those listed above (save Doughty and perhaps Pietrangelo). He’s known primarily as a point-getter from the defensive position, which is part of what makes him elite. If you want to talk about it from a pure points standpoint, Subban finished second in points among those listed in the five highest paid defensemen (three behind Weber) in 2013-14 and first among d-men in 2012-13 (tied with Letang). He totaled 127 in the last three seasons.
However, while he’s known for his offensive chops as a d-man, his defensive play has fared quite a bit better than many give him credit for. His relative Corsi came in at 5.1% for the regular season, which was good for a top ten finish among blue liners. His Quality of Competition didn’t rank too far near the top of the league overall, but was second on the team last season as he averaged 24:36 of ice time per game, 17th among defensemen in the NHL.
The question is, though, what exactly should the Montreal Canadiens be paying P.K. Subban in this next contract? A seven-year deal would be ideal if you’re trying to lock up a 25-year-old premium talent. Such a contract would take him through the rest of his prime. That rumored figure of $6.5 million seems a touch low, but not too low. Another $500k, or even up another million, to $7.5 million/year, would be a reasonable contract for a defenseman of his caliber.
As one of the more polarizing players in the game today, there’s no doubt that P.K. Subban has his fair share of critics around the league, both from a media standpoint and from fans around the league, regardless of loyalties. Nonetheless, there’s no disputing that he’s one of the game’s best, especially from an offensive standpoint, and deserves to be paid as such. The Habs are just lucky that the rest of the league is too terrified, or in too hazardous a cap situation, to throw him an offer sheet.