Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin announced Monday the signing of defenseman P.K. Subban to a two-year contract (2012-13 to 2013-14). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
The consensus among most media members and fans is that Subban caved and took a deal much closer to what the Canadiens wanted than what his representatives were looking for.
While this may be true, both sides won and lost with this new two-year deal. Let's look at the pros and cons for the Canadiens and Subban after learning what his new contract looks like.
Pro: Canadiens Signed Subban to a Team-Friendly Deal
It's not often that we see star players settle for short, team-friendly contracts coming off their entry-level deals as restricted free agents, but the Canadiens were able to force Subban into accepting a short deal that benefits the team far more than the player.
Before the lockout, we saw a lot of young stars who were RFAs sign massive second contracts that were six and seven years in length with an average salary of $5.5 million or more.
Here are a few of those deals:
|Taylor Hall||EDM||21||FWD||7 years, $42 million|
|Tyler Seguin||BOS||20||FWD||6 years, $34.5 million|
|John Carlson||WSH||23||DEF||6 years, $23.8 million|
|Jeff Skinner||CAR||20||FWD||6 years, $34.35 million|
These teams were unable to successfully sign their young cornerstone players to short-term contracts that didn't include large salary cap hits, and have taken the risk that these players may never live up to their potential.
At the end of Subban's new contract, Bergevin will have four seasons worth of NHL experience to determine if his star defenseman is deserving of the first major deal of his career.
That's plenty of time to make a fair assessment of Subban's value to the team.
Montreal has proven to teams across the league that it is possible to sign franchise RFAs to team-friendly deals instead of huge long-term contracts before they reach "elite" status.
Con: Next Subban Contract Will Have to be Massive
Once free agency opens this July, Subban will be allowed to sign a new contract. Regardless of when his next deal is signed, it's likely going to be a massive one.
As a franchise defenseman who hasn't reached the prime of his career, Subban is going to earn the huge long-term contract he deserves some time in the next two years.
He will be under a lot of pressure to not only perform at a high level for his own individual goals, but to also help the Canadiens become a yearly playoff contender.
However, since Subban embraces the spotlight and responds well to pressure, he should have no problem developing into one of the league's best defenseman and proving to Bergevin that he deserves to be paid like one of the top players at his position.
Montreal probably could have signed Subban to a five-year contract with a cap hit of about $5 million, which would have been a bargain for the team by the time that deal expired if the 23-year-old star continued to develop at his current rate.
Instead, the Canadiens now face the possibility of having to sign him to a contract that includes a cap hit that's twice the size of his current one in just two years.
When Subban signs his third contract, we may look at his cap hit then and make the assessment that Bergevin should have locked up the star defenseman to a long-term deal much sooner.
Pro: This Contract Helps the Canadiens Salary Cap Situation in Immediate Future
The Canadiens were able to lock up Subban for just two years with a small $2.875 salary cap hit, which is a great result for the team because general manager Marc Bergevin has a number of large contracts on the books for the next two seasons.
If he signed Subban to a contract worth $5 million or more per year, Bergevin would not have had a lot of salary cap space to fill out his roster when the cap ceiling declines to $64.3 million for the 2013-14 season.
At the moment, Montreal has just over $8 million in cap space for next season with only 17 players under contract, so it was important that the team didn't overpay to re-sign Subban on his second contract.
Subban's new contract will account for just 4.06 percent of the Canadiens salary cap total for next season, which is a low number for a team's best player (not including goaltenders).
Con: This Deal Could Have Been Worked Out Much Sooner
As is the case with a lot of lengthy contract negotiations, fans often look at the deal that is ultimately agreed to and wonder why it wasn't reached much sooner. Subban's new contract is a good example of this.
Should the Canadiens have signed Subban to a long-term deal?
Back in September, he should have known that the team was probably not interested in giving him a long-term deal, especially after the lockout, when it was very likely (and turned out to be true) that the players would lose on some player contract-rights issues and the salary cap ceiling would go down as a result of the CBA negotiations.
Subban was a restricted free agent and did not have a lot of leverage; even though he is a very important part of the team's success at both ends of the ice. The team was capable of winning games without him, and the Canadiens proved that with a 3-1 record to start the season.
He could have easily worked out a new deal and not wasted time and four games of the new season.