Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin gets his share of flak for bad deals currently on the books for the 2013-14 season, but he has also proven quite adept at making the odd great bargain.
Cases can definitely be made that players like David Desharnais (current cap hit of $3.5 million), Carey Price ($6.5 million) and Daniel Briere ($4 million) have been overpaid under his watch. Hell, cases can be made that both Ryan White ($700,000) and Davis Drewiske ($637,500) are being overpaid as well.
That’s beside the point, though.
For each Price, no pun intended, there is also a Brendan Gallagher. Gallagher, of course, was nominated for the Calder Memorial Trophy last year despite making a base salary of just $690,000.
Being a first-year pro, Gallagher is admittedly the rarest of exceptions.
Excluding those currently on entry-level deals struck with the team holding all the leverage, the Habs are still sitting relatively pretty in regard to the contracts of at least a handful of players.
Here are the top five for the upcoming 2013-14 season, taking each player's entire contract into consideration.
All salary and cap-hit figures taken from CapGeek.com.
Montreal Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec.
2013-14 Salary: $5 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $5 million
Comparable: Mikko Koivu (Minnesota Wild)
2013-14 Salary: $7.29 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $6.75 million
Tomas Plekanec proves that a player can make a lot of money—relatively speaking, as all NHL players make a lot of money—but still be a great bargain.
Entering the fourth year of a six-year, $30 million deal, Plekanec actually owes his contract to Bergevin’s predecessor, Pierre Gauthier.
It would seem that between trading Michael Cammalleri during a game and announcing Randy Cunneyworth would be fired at season’s end—with a half-season’s worth of games for him left to coach, but suddenly without any real incentive to win—Gauthier actually made some shrewd moves.
Plekanec may find his name in the rumor mill more often than not. However, he should take it as a compliment more than anything else, as it’s not meant to indicate he’s expendable.
It’s more a nod to the fact he’s that valuable and can fetch the greatest haul.
Plekanec plays in all situations for the Habs and is arguably the team’s most valuable player up front. Of course, he’s not without his flaws—namely trademark offensive inconsistency that can see his point totals fluctuate wildly from below 40 points to a career high of 70 reached in 2009-10.
Still, Plekanec fans can rest assured that he’s not going anywhere thanks to the limited no-trade clause in his deal that would theoretically handcuff the Habs were any deal ever actually struck.
Of course, at least some thanks go to Gauthier, who was the one dumb enough to put it in there. He’s the gift that keeps on giving, the “ghost” that never really goes away—no matter the number of exorcists.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman Alexei Emelin hits Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal.
2013-14 Salary: $2 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $2 million
Comparable: Marc Methot (Ottawa Senators)
2013-14 Salary: $3.25 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3 million
Rough-and-tumble defenseman Alexei Emelin is currently on the shelf with a knee injury, so take this fourth-place entry with a grain of salt.
No one really knows how he will rebound once he returns come December. However, based on his value to the team over the past few seasons, Emelin is worth his weight in gold. Based on his weight, he’s actually about just as rare.
Weighing in at 224 pounds, Emelin was actually the Habs’ biggest player up until Jarred Tinordi’s promotion last year and the offseason acquisitions of Douglas Murray and George Parros.
It’s important to note that the latter two are expected to see limited action this season, while Tinordi isn’t even expected to make the team.
Once Emelin returns, however, the hope is he will pick up right where he left off as the team’s most physical defenseman and player.
Accumulating 110 hits in 38 games last season, Emelin was the team’s leader in that category. The closest Habs player to him in this department was Erik Cole, who wasn’t even with the team by season’s end.
Needless to say, the hits he dished out were just as valuable a commodity as goals to the Habs.
Emelin is poised to be an unrestricted free agent next season and could probably end up commanding Brooks Orpik money at that point. Therefore, assuming he comes back healthy, his current $2 million price tag is quite cost-effective.
Montreal Canadiens forward Lars Eller takes on Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf.
2013-14 Salary: $1.5 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $1.325 million
Comparable: Jordan Staal (Carolina Hurricanes)
2013-14 Salary: $6 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $6 million
As the Lars Eller comparison to Jordan Staal is likely to raise some eyebrows, it’s probably worth qualifying to a certain extent.
For instance, the incredibly valuable Staal scored his 31 points this past season playing over five more minutes per game than Eller, who still managed 30 points. So, yeah, probably not the aptest comparison in the world.
In all seriousness, though, it’s clear that Staal is the more valuable player. However, credit is nevertheless due to Eller. A year younger, he broke out offensively last season despite playing more of a defensive role.
He even earned a plus/minus rating of plus-eight whereas one-time Selke Trophy finalist Staal was minus-18.
It remains to be seen how Eller will play after getting concussed in the first game of the playoffs this past spring. If he continues to improve as he has season to season so far in his career, it’s not that outlandish of a notion that he ends up close to Staal's caliber.
With his deal set to expire at the end of the season (restricted free agent), if he does, you can probably guess just whose contract his agent is going to throw in Bergevin’s face at the earliest opportunity.
He definitely won’t get that kind of money, nor is he really worth it—Staal arguably isn’t either—but you certainly wouldn’t be able to hold it against him for trying.
Montreal Canadiens and Norris Memorial Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban.
2013-14 Salary: $3.75 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $2.875 million
Comparable: Kris Letang (Pittsburgh Penguins)
2013-14 Salary: $3.5 million (goes up to $7.25 million in 2014-15)
2013-14 Cap Hit: $3.5 million (goes up to $7.25 million in 2014-15)
Considering he won the Norris Memorial Trophy as the league’s best defenseman last year and his cap hit is under $3 million, P.K. Subban might be a bit of a surprise to slip into just the No. 2 spot on this list.
However, if you look at Pittsburgh Penguin defenseman Kris Letang, who was nominated for the same trophy, Subban isn’t as much of a steal as he is temporarily on sale.
Like Eller, Subban will be a restricted free agent at the end of this coming season. After signing a bridge contract that was arguably below market value after the lockout, he’s in for a mighty big raise.
I mean, Letang got a near-$4 million salary bump in his extension, and he didn’t even win the damn trophy. Meanwhile, all Subban did in 2013 was co-lead all defensemen in points with 38 (with Letang) while showing steady year-to-year improvement in his defensive game.
More of a complete defenseman than Letang, Subban will likely command north of $8 million per year—probably closer to $9 million in all actuality.
So, after losing the battle, bowing to pressure and signing that bridge contract instead of the long-term deal he had been hoping for, Subban will end up winning the war...and we’re talking scorched earth, here.
The scariest thing for Habs management? He’s getting that massive raise regardless of how this season turns out—even if his play takes a nosedive.
The scariest thing for readers of this article? Even if his play takes a nosedive, the $2.875 million cap hit will still end up being a bargain, with CapGeek listing Nashville Predator Kevin Klein as Subban’s closest cap comparable.
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty.
2013-14 Salary: $4 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $4.5 million
Comparable: Evander Kane (Winnipeg Jets)
2013-14 Salary: $4.5 million
2013-14 Cap Hit: $5.25 million
After leading the Montreal Canadiens in scoring for the second straight season, Max Pacioretty has clearly become Montreal’s most dangerous offensive weapon up front.
While the fact that Pacioretty will make less than $5 million in such a capacity is impressive, Bergevin truly deserves kudos for how the deal only runs out in 2019.
This is actually the first year of Pacioretty’s six-year extension (he made $1.75 million last year). When the contract expires, Pacioretty will only be 30 years old and in his prime, making this deal practically John Tavares-esque in its cost-effectiveness.
That may actually be the most flattering way Pacioretty can accurately be mentioned in the same sentence as Tavares, but it’s probably the best he’s going to get.
Pacioretty may not even be the most valuable player on his team (Subban), but he is a legitimate 30-goal scorer who’ll only get better. Seeing as he’s arguably a steal at $4 million now, that’s saying a great deal as to just how well the Habs project to make out by the end of this contract.