The real or imagined PK Subban sweepstakes
Contract talks have continued to stall between Montréal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin and defenseman PK Subban. On Friday, it was reported that the Canadiens were stalwartly defending their two-year, $5 million offer. Subban seems to believe he is worth more, and perhaps very rightly so.
Despite missing only one game last season, he didn’t improve upon his point totals from his rookie year, and even scored fewer goals. Still his composure and defensive abilities were greatly improved. His energy had become a feature of the Habs’ blueline.
But with just under $5.9 million in cap space at the moment, Bergevin might not think he can risk investing more than about $5 million in Subban without risking his long-term ability to sign other players. A lot of the Canadiens’ payroll is currently tied up at forward, and will remain that way, barring trades, for at least a few more years.
A bigger contract for Subban might be a hard decision for Bergevin to make if he hopes to be able to re-sign any of his other defensemen, many of whom become free agents in 2014, and play the free agent market at all in the next two or three years. This is a team that has made the playoffs frequently in recent years, but hasn’t been able to compete scoring-wise into the later rounds in quite some time.
It’s possible that Bergevin has to weigh the long-term value of Subban against the possibility of re-tooling his offensive corps in the next several off-seasons even if he’d probably like to have both. This also may be the reason that the contract term is so short, although it’s unknown if the length of the deal is a huge point of contention.
And the fact remains that the offer still stands with no change from previous contract offers made last May. This has at least a small faction of fans from every NHL team wondering if their team can make a run at the restricted free agent via offer sheet or a possible trade for his rights, and NHL fans and GMs alike are probably wondering what they might have to give up in exchange. Such a move is certainly risky, but for a team in need of a spark on its back end, it could be worth it in the end.
Subban hasn’t made himself outrageously popular outside of Montréal from a fan perspective. His confident attitude in interviews has divided hockey fans, with mixed feelings as to whether he’s cocky or just has an outgoing personality.
He has also gained a reputation of delivering potentially dirty hits, many of which have led to “intent to injure” accusations on Twitter and beyond. But fans with hockey sense can still see what he brings to the table, and many have adopted the attitude that he is the type of player you hate to play against but would love in your own team’s colors.
These interested buyers even include fans of the Canadiens’ archrival, the Boston Bruins, who have made noise with the #offersheetPK hashtag on Twitter. Other fanbases have adopted the hashtag as well, though the Bruins organization does have Subban’s brother in their system, 19-year-old Belleville Bulls goaltender Malcolm Subban.
Preeminent Pittsburgh Penguins blog The Pensblog did a statistical comparison of Subban and Kristopher Letang, a defenseman in the Pens’ organization who is a few years older and is a comparable player in terms of style and profile. Both are considered to be “offensive” defensemen who can add scoring from the blueline, particularly on the power play, and tend to take risks on plays to go deep when rushing the puck. Letang wins in most of the statistical categories and is making $3.5 million a year.
However, they also do a comparison of Subban and the slightly more stay-at-home Penguins’ defenseman Paul Martin, who has a cap hit of $5 million. Subban wins against Martin in almost every major category. Paul Martin’s higher salary is probably largely dependent on intangibles, such as age/experience and reliability. Still, looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see that if Subban were on the open market, he could ask for anything between $3 and $5 million and probably get it.
Unless the Canadiens are willing to offer something more substantial to Subban, offer sheets could be on the table very shortly. The hesitation is understandable considering the situation. Subban has stated that he doesn’t want to leave Montréal, and the organization obviously does not want to lose him. The fact that a deal hasn’t been made yet has likely brought Habs fans’ frustrations to a peak. It’s plain to see that the team is more competitive with him on the roster. But so would any other team in the NHL be, regardless of his reputation.
Subban likely wants to finally get his gear back on and take the ice, and the clock is ticking.