One of the Montreal Canadiens' most important goals this summer was to re-sign franchise defenseman P.K. Subban. But since that didn't happen before the previous CBA expired, it's probably not going to get done for quite a while.
Subban is one of the most recognizable players on the current Canadiens' roster, and he is arguably the team's best skater.
Let's look at five reasons why the Canadiens would regret letting Subban go.
Subban ranked fifth on the Canadiens in scoring last year with 36 points (seven goals, 29 assists) in 81 games. He also finished fourth on the team in assists.
The next highest-scoring defenseman on the team was Tomas Kaberle, who scored 22 points in 43 games.
If Subban were to leave the team, the Canadiens' offensive production from the blue line would suffer tremendously.
Subban accounted for over 25 percent of the scoring from defensemen who finished the season in Montreal (so players like Hall Gill who were traded before the deadline weren't included).
Subban also finished the year with 205 shots, which led all defensemen on the team. Yannick Weber ranked second with just 88 shots.
There's no one else on the roster who can replace the skills that Subban adds to the Montreal blue line.
Subban is arguably the Canadiens' most important player on the power play because he can score goals and run the team's plays from the blue line.
He scored five power-play goals last season, which tied for second on the team with forward Tomas Plekanec.
The Canadiens scored 43 power-play goals last year, which was about four goals less than the league average. Subban was on the ice for 26 of these goals.
Subban's thunderous slap shot (see video) and his good decision-making at the blue line allow him to be very effective on the power play.
Subban missed just one game last season, and he was one of two defensemen on the Canadiens to play in more than 70 games. He has missed only six games in his two full seasons with Montreal.
Not only was Subban on the ice almost every night for the Canadiens in 2011-12, but he led the team in average ice time per game at 24:18.
Other than Josh Gorges, no other blueliner on the team averaged 18 minutes or more of ice time per game last year.
When you look at the injury problems that Montreal had on its blue line last season, specifically the 108 combined games that Andrei Markov and Chris Campoli missed, it would be devastating if the team lost a reliable defenseman such as Subban.
With a worse team than he had during the 2010-11 season, Subban actually improved his plus-minus rating from minus-8 two seasons ago to plus-nine last year.
Despite his reputation for diving sometimes, Subban does bring a lot of toughness to the ice.
His athleticism is great for someone of his size (6'0", 200 pounds), and this helps him deliver some huge hits.
As he earns more experience at the NHL level, the defensive part of Subban's game will continue to improve at an impressive pace.
The Candiens have strong defensive depth in their organization, but many of their top defensemen prospects are either not ready to replace a player of Subban's caliber, or they're not ready to even play at the NHL level yet.
Nathan Beaulieu is one of the team's top prospects. He has many of the same offensive skills as Subban. He scored 52 points (11 goals, 41 assists) in 53 games last season for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, and he also racked up 100 PIM. He will be a fantastic NHL defenseman, but he's not a top pairing player yet.
Other impressive defenseman in the Canadiens organization include 2012 second-round pick Dalton Thrower and also Jarred Tinordi of the London Knights. But neither player is ready for the NHL yet. Both of these prospects are probably two years away.
The Canadiens have young defensemen who will be on the NHL roster in a few years, but none of them could replace what Subban currently gives the team at both ends of the ice.
Montreal needs Subban for the next two years at least, so signing him to a two-year deal wouldn't be such a bad idea.