The Montreal Canadiens are fortunate to have several good young players to build around for the future, but one player they must keep long-term because of his importance to the team's success on and off the ice is star defenseman P.K. Subban.
At just 23 years of age, Subban is quickly becoming one of the top young defenseman in the NHL.
There are many teams who would love to have a defenseman with the offensive skill set that Subban displays each game. If he were to ever become a free agent in the near future, it would be shocking if more than half the league wasn't interested in signing him.
How many years should the Canadiens re-sign Subban for?
His offensive production has been good in his two full seasons in the NHL (38 points in 2010-11, 36 in 2012), and it will only get better as he and his team improves.
The Canadiens and Subban weren't able to work out a new contract before the lockout went into effect on September 15, but that shouldn't prevent both sides from reaching an agreement soon after the work stoppage ends.
Signing Subban after the new collective bargaining agreement may actually help the Canadiens since the players' share of hockey-related revenue will likely be seven percent lower than it was in the previous agreement.
If Subban's contract was finalized before the lockout, Montreal probably would have had to pay more to re-sign him than it will likely cost to keep him after the work stoppage.
The Canadiens would be wise to sign Subban to a five-year deal and make sure he is a big part of the franchise going forward.
Montreal is lucky to have a No. 1 defenseman like Subban and a star goaltender in Carey Price, which has given the team a solid foundation to build a championship roster with. Not many teams have a goaltender/top defenseman combination as strong as that.
Price signed a new six-year contract in July, so if Subban is locked up for several years the Canadiens will have two of the best young players at their respective positions for the long-term.
Giving up on a 23-year-old No. 1 defenseman who hasn't even reached the prime of his career yet would be a huge mistake, and one that the Canadiens cannot afford to make—especially after the poor trades and free-agent signings that the team has made over the last few years.
Finding young players who embrace playing in a demanding hockey market such as Montreal is not easy, so when you have someone like Subban who performs at a high level and can handle the pressure of playing in that kind of market, you must do everything possible to keep him around for a long time.