When Nashville matched that offer sheet for Shea Weber, effectively inking him to a 14-year contract, I had this mental image of Paul Holmgren in his office.
There he is, on Capgeek, scanning the list of un-signed restricted free agents. “Kulikov, Petrecki, Del Zotto… no, these don’t seem like my jam. Wait! Is PK Subban any good?”
Holmgren then called up his top scout to confirm that, yes, PK Subban was real good. “What is his agent’s name?”
I guessed that Holmgren might use some of the funds that he had set aside for Weber to use on Subban, the pernicious face of the Montreal Canadiens. Unlike Weber, Subban is only 23 but, like Weber, the addition would help out a group that lost Matt Carle this summer and is unlikely to see the return of Chris Pronger.
But none of this happened.
In fact, it doesn’t seem like Montreal has too much interest in signing Subban either. There was a report that went out Wednesday afternoon from RDS that suggested the Montreal Canadiens had offered the free agent two years and $5.5M. That’s $5.5M total, not per year.
This has enough of a “crazy enough to be true” aspect to it that I immediately indicted Habs’ management for undervaluing the player that ought to be their star player. Perhaps it isn’t true that the team offered Subban $5.5M over two years. Perhaps it is. The important thing is that it didn’t seem like it was outside the realm of Marc Bergevin and his new staff, who have yet to show me that they’re anything more than a few of the “boys on the bus” that don’t really apply any creative or pragmatic thinking and overvalue the same thing.
This is the group that handed out contracts to both Colby Armstrong and Brandon Prust on July 1. The fear of every Toronto Maple Leaf fan manifested itself in Montreal somehow, and the Canadiens have yet to plug the holes they created by dealing rentals at last year’s deadline.
I’m a fan of PK Subban. I’ve written about him a couple of times in this space, here and here, defending his play. He puts up real good possession numbers which is a rarity when it comes to young defencemen. On a team as un-coordinated with puck possession as the Montreal Canadiens, particularly in the second half, Subban held strong.
He led his team in both relative Corsi and Corsi On, while playing against the second highest quality of competition (him and Josh Gorges did the heavy lifting by a long-shot) and, like most Montreal players, was forced to start way more shifts in the defensive than the offensive zone. I don’t like to use +/- numbers because they often tell the wrong story, but if you look at player numbers with and without Subban, you see that Erik Cole was +22 while on the ice with Subban, Max Pacioretty was +15, Tomas Plekanec was -1 and David Desharnais was +22. Without, the four were, respectively -8, -9, -11 and -7.
Not too often do players border on elite without their team recognizing it. Particularly Bergevin, who made it the focus of his offseason to re-sign Carey Price. He comes from the Chicago system where the team was successful for four seasons playing with outstanding skaters and mediocre goaltending. Bergevin’s goal ought to be to match the Chicago model, not do the exact opposite.
This is the last chance the Habs may have to sign Pernell Karl to a long-term deal, one that runs for more than six years, covering all of Subban’s prime years and the first few of free agency. I think it makes more sense to lock up the defenceman long term than the goalie and ought to have been Bergevin’s priority; a goalie is a goalie, and in six years, the odds that Price will still be considered one of the top goalies in the NHL is slim.
I think the case is legitimate. Carey Price’s financial future is secure, while Subban is still without a contract and we’ve made it all the way to August. Subban didn’t have a terrific season offensively last year, but he helped out his teammates doing what he does best: the little things, which is an odd thing to expect out of a primetime, spotlight guy who sells a lot of jerseys.
Not often does a team undervalue its own superstar.