The Habs got their guy but did so in the stupidest way possible.

Last night PK Subban signed a new contract with Montreal that will pay him $2 million pro-rated this season and $3.75 million next season. Two years, $2.875 against the cap.

In the immediate aftermath of the team announcing the deal, everyone came out in full support of Marc Bergevin, who had to make his first tough decision as Habs GM in not bending to Subban’s demands for a five-year deal. “He stuck to his guns,” they said with approving nods. Indeed, he didn’t want to look “weak” after saying he wanted a two-year deal and nothing besides, and thus this is what he got. For all the sitting out, Subban only pulled an additional $250,000 from the two years, $5.5 million he rejected in August. Chump change for of one of the richest organizations in hockey.

As many have pointed out, the money Subban got was Mike Del Zotto money, and there can’t be too many people in hockey who think Mike Del Zotto is as good a defenseman as PK Subban. So in that regard, yes, Bergevin “won” by “sticking to his guns” with this deal. Subban lost because he didn’t cash in at anywhere near the amount he wanted.

But if we look a little farther up the road, this is a not-very-bright move by a guy who’s only just now trying to prove himself in his new job. But in reality, the new Subban contract is only a win if you think the NHL stops existing after next season.

Because here’s the thing: Yeah, the Habs are paying $2.875 million for PK Subban against the cap for the next two seasons. That doesn’t even matter so much this year because the Habs had the cap space and then some to get the deal done, and even less next year because Scott Gomez comes off the books.

But after that, when Subban’s up for a new deal in the summer of 2014? Andrei Markov is off the books too. As is Tomas Kaberle. As is Brian Gionta, who, captain or not, will be 36 at that point and not worth anywhere near the $5 million a season cap hit he currently carries. It will be a radically different NHL, too, with a lower salary cap that likely won’t have gone up all that much after coming down so heavily this summer.

So how, exactly, does Bergevin win here? It seems to me that Subban’s deal is designed specifically to fit him under the cap next season, and is therefore opening the team to significant risk that probably isn’t worth anywhere near the trouble. Subban is currently 23. He’ll be in the prime of his career this season and next. Maybe the team thinks his 50 percent drop in goal production between his rookie and sophomore years is an indicator of things to come — and surely the only way to tell with that is to wait and see — but again, huge risk to take. The likelihood, based on his age and development path, is that Subban continues to mature into a very, very good NHL defenseman, and those don’t come cheap. Especially when Bergevin’s neat little two-year deal gets him right up to the point of what Shea Weber saw last summer.

It’s perhaps unfair to compare him to Weber, because Weber is among the elitest of the league’s elite defensemen and his deal was signed under the old collective bargaining agreement (and under threat of offer sheet from a desperate, big-market team, no less). But nonetheless, what do you suppose a defenseman who’s, let’s say, even top-30 in the league who just went through his age-24 and -25 years on an improving team with good young talent in the pipeline commands when he’s looking for a team to buy up several years of unrestricted free agency? What about if that team is also going to be in the market for some defensemen to carry heavy minutes with Markov and Kaberle’s contracts expiring?

Do you think it will be less or more on a per-annum basis against the cap than what Bergevin could have signed Subban for with that five-year deal the player wanted today? Here’s a clue for you: It’s going to be more. Probably by a lot. I’m not saying Subban’s going to pull league max or anything even resembling it. He probably won’t even get Erik Karlsson’s $6.5 million. But I wouldn’t think $5.5-6 million a year will be out of the question.

This is a deal that both sides seem to have lost, somehow. Subban doesn’t get nearly the money or years he should have. James Mirtle quoted an anonymous player agent as calling it “bizarre.” Bergevin, meanwhile, puts a Band-Aid on a PR bullet wound, ensuring that whether it’s through arbitration or a normal negotiation, Subban is going to get paid a lot more against the cap than he would have with a reasonable longer-term deal today. And man, he really better hope it’s not through arbitration, because Don Meehan will only have to whisper the name “Tyler Myers” to make everyone on the other side of the table start weeping openly.

And here’s the really weird part: The Habs aren’t going to be good this year or next. Like, not at all. They’ll probably improve over last year’s lottery finish, sure, but when it comes to being competitive? They’re not all that close. Subban will be able to prey on that in two summers as well. If they want to keep the improving band together, someone’s gotta pay the best defenseman. This is all phenomenally shortsighted, isn’t it?

So yes, Bergevin stuck to his guns, and he will pay through the nose for doing so. That’s not all that smart to me. But hey, at least the fans won’t chant “We want PK!” at every game now. That’s gotta be worth the extra headaches and money this deal will carry down the line.

Comments (29)

  1. So it’s not a good deal because Bergevin refused to pay him 5-6 millions right now, and he will have to pay that in 2 years ? We never got the confirmation that Subban was asking for 5-6millions right now, but I don’t think he would have taken a multi-year contract at 4 millions either.

  2. Lot of assumptions that Subban WILL rise to the elite level in on ice ability, results and off ice character. None of the 3 of which are guaranteed except perhaps ability at this point…. I think if he pans out to be that elite the Habs would have no issues signing him at that time to the big multi year deal. Why should he get massive money now when he is only just coming off an entry level deal unless his name is Crosby..or Stamkos..?? And since when do Dmen hit their peak at 23 and 24 when most so called experts agree that most dmen start to hit their peak mid 20′s..which ironically enough is after this contract…

    This article is exactly one of the biggest issues with the NHL in the last 10 years….. entitlement as opposed to earning contracts..

  3. Isn’t it possible that Bergevin is getting the Habs geared up for a big blueline spending spree in a few years? It’s risky, sure, but if he can gather some quality d-men whose styles mesh well under one umbrella, he could bring Montreal back to the fold. Of course, the blueline isn’t the only thing that needs work…

  4. Bergevin wins because he can sign Subban to big money when he has big space. Bergevin wins because he stuck to club policy re: 2 year bridge contracts (see Pacioretty, Max, and Price, Carey).
    Bergevin wins because he’ll have a motivated Subban playing for 2 years with Markov (fingers crossed).

  5. Is it possible that he’s banking on the likes of Jared Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu to be in the bigs once this deal expires? Like you said, Markov will likely be in for somewhat of a paycut, leaving plenty of room for Subban to be signed to a big deal.

  6. Obviously you are correct that it is interesting of Bergevin to have so many Dmen up for new deals at the same time – 6 of their top 8 have deals that end after 2013-14.

    But you specifically mention Markov and Kaberle. Kaberle won’t get anywhere near the same money, if he’s even still with the team at that point. Markov is clearly fantastic, but he’ll be 35 at the end of the deal with a pair of wonky knees. Anything is possible where he’s concerned, from still being an all-star to being retired due to injury.

    Still, the Habs D is definitely going to fluctuate over the next couple years. Let’s not forget the prospects they have in Tinordi, Beaulieu, and (to a lesser extent) Ellis. All three will remain signed when those other deals are expiring, and all three need at least the rest of this year in Hamilton, maybe next year as well. At that point, who knows how things will be.

    So yes, it’s a stopgap move, but not necessarily a bad one. It ends at a good time to evaluate where the Habs want to go with their Defense corps. Maybe that means Tinordi and Beaulieu in the pros, replacing Markov and Kaberle. Maybe not. We will see.

  7. This article makes no sense.

    You think it would be better to pay 5-6 million now for x amount of years, then to pay about 2.875 for two years, and then, let’s say for arguments sake, 5-6 million for 6 years after that?

    • But what about a 5 year $20M deal? There is a middle ground – that if the Habs had structured a deal to pay him more now – they could save big time money down the road. What if defense contracts balloon again 3 years from now?

  8. As a Habs fan I would have preferred a long term deal for sure. Conventional practice is to buy out free agency years so that you save money over the length of a 6 (or so) year deal. Maybe Montreal doesn’t see his value rising so high that they wouldn’t be ok with just paying him whatever he is worth at that point.. but you’re playing a risky game by not locking him down at a middle ground number for a longer deal. There is no guarantee that Tinordi & Beaulieu are ready to step in in a few years – and even so – it doesn’t really make sense not to lock up a core piece long-term at a reasonable rate if you can.

  9. Both parties WON here. PK is back on the ice and he has two years to show he deserves a 5 million a year long term deal. The stage is set and the incentive is there. If he plays well he deserves to get paid big bucks…..and the Habs will get every cent of what they pay him back in performance, jersey sales, and giving their lineup some swagger.

  10. How could anyone say this is a bad move. Getting Subban at that price should be a blessing and people are complaining about what might happen in 2 years.

    In 2 years, the D will be different, Beaulieu and Tinordi should be shoe ins and Kaberle should be gone, Markov will get a pay cut, Bouillon will be gone (or at least most likely), Weber will be gone and the saving in cap will be paid to Diaz and Emelin. No magic needed by Bergevin.

    • How can you say definitively that Tinordi and Beaulieu will be shoe-ins in two years time? Its far more probable that they are still breaking in with the big club – making Subban’s presence as a 26 year old all the more valuable. The Habs really missed an opportunity to stabilize their blue line for years to come – and if you use Victor Hedman as an example – the savings could be huge in comparison to the costs that are likely now.

      • Victor Hedman hasn’t done a thing since he broke into the NHL and is an example of why you shouldn’t sign young D to long contracts. The Lightning are overpaying him.

        • But what about his contract wouldn’t make sense for the Habs for the next 5 years with Subban. If they signed him to that they’d save a bunch of money on his free agent years.

    • “How could anyone say this is a bad move”?

      because lambert, that’s why

  11. Subban is one of the best D in the league right now. I don’t understand why he agreed to this deal. If the Canadians refused to go longterm he should have signed a one year deal and gone to arbitration in the summer. There is zero chance he would get less than 3.75 million through arbitration.

    So while this is obviously a good deal for the Canadians the real story is that Subban isn’t very smart and his agent should be immediately fired by every other player.

    The only conclusion I can come to is that Subban is a very stupid person who was taken advantage of by Bergevin.

  12. RE your point on arbitration and Tyler Myers:

    There’s no comparison between the two players in terms of their contracts. Myers signed a 7 year/$38M deal after the expiration of his ELC. Because of the length of the contract and the fact that the contract wipes out his first three years of unrestricted free agency, it’s not going to be an accurate reflection of what Subban is worth for his 5th and/or 6th season (when he is, of course, still an RFA).

    If Subban’s next contract eventually goes into the hands of an arbitrator, the sides will present the salaries of players with similar amounts of service time. In addition multi-year contracts, especially those that cover a portion of a player’s UFA years, won’t be persuasive.

  13. Subban was not taken advantage of, as some posters would like to think. He has COMBINED, 1.5 seasons under his belt; that’s it. I’m a die-hard Habs fan, and I truly believe that Subban will be a remarkable defenceman in years to come, but WHAT IF HE ISN’T? Why spend the money now; why not wait, and after these next two seasons they’ll see if he will be worth it. Then, with 3.5 seasons under his belt they can determine if he is worth his contract and dish out the major cash to keep him. You think that if Subban turns out to be amazing that Bergevin WON’T offer him an 7-8 year contract? If you honestly think Bergevin will let him slip through his fingers, then you really need your head examined.

  14. This is not that hard.

    For Bergevin, it kicks the big money deal 2 years down the road…time with which they can be more certain how good Subban will be going forward, which reduces risk in that future contract as well.

    There’s no drawback for them.

  15. So when this 2 year deal is up, is he a UFA?

    If so, hes probably pissed at Habs management and going to the highest bidder.

  16. I agree with this article. Not that necessarily this is a bad contract or it will work out poorly, but this isn’t a universal win for the Habs. It is not about entitlement to a big contract but sharing the risk. Player takes less money per year but gets years. It should be mutually beneficial. Player gets security and Habs get a player who will be earning less than market if he continues to imporve as expected.

    The other thing is that if I was Suban now, considering the team is forcing me to “earn” the contract and accept all the risk, I would just file for arbitration when this two years is up and become a UFA or at least force the Habs to give me 100% market value contract i.e. no hometown discount. Habs are using its leverage so why wouldn’t Suban do the same when he has it? Maybe this hasn’t poisoned the relationship but it seems weird to take such a hard stance on a guy that is your franchise player (with Price). Look at how Stars treated Benn vs. Habs and PK. Those who think this is a market value contract are crazy. Look at how much more others are paid. This is more about lack of leverage, which I agree goes to market value. To me the Habs really put the screws to PK.

  17. This deal was good for both sides as now Subban must prove just how he really is as a leader and a number one defencemen plus if he indeed is as good as he seems could he make Team Canada in 2014 in Russia? If so, then the Habs must pay him big time in 2 years!

  18. The deal is a good one. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ in this article. Nobody is saying that PK Subban will come out over the next two years and play his heart out. If he can maintain the level he’s at now then yeah he’s worth 2-3 million a year. Unless he can bring his game to the next level, he’s not. If he reaches that level, and we have to pay him 4 or 5 million year I am still okay with that. Having a star player on your team is a good problem to have. Again, he’s not at that level yet so for now this is a good deal for the Habs.

  19. You people are crazy. If Subban doesn’t improve at all he is still worth $6 million on the open market. This is a terrible deal for him. He would be better off playing for the league minimum and going to arbitration in the summer.

  20. Speaking of shortsighted, I’d rather overpay PK AFTER he has proven he’s worth the money, as opposed to before. Secondly, as if Kaberle is going to get re-signed at all (especially with the current stock of D in the pipeline). I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the second amnesty buyout. Was this just written for the sake of writing?

  21. Does Lambert even know that Subban is RFA after this contract? Since he never mentions it, but does somehow contrive to mention Shea Weber, it sure seems like he doesn’t. Talk about your classic argument from ignorance.

  22. This is dumb. What a dumb article. I don’t have the time to respond in full but thankfully many of your readers have for me.

  23. Fuck you Lambert. You have once again trolled me into clicking on an idiotic article without seeing who wrote it first.

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