The Philadelphia Flyers are still reeling from the shocking outcome of their failed Shea Weber offer sheet. The Nashville Predators, who struggle to turn a profit each year, somehow matched a front-loaded contract to arguably the best defenseman in hockey. Ousted by a small-market Preds team, what do the Flyers do now? P.K. Subban, the next-best restricted free agent available this offseason, is reportedly in the mix to fill the Chris Pronger-sized hole in the Philly blue line.
The Montreal Canadiens certainly don’t have trouble turning a profit, but something appears to be holding up contract negotiations with the 23-year-old RFA defenseman. After freezing their roster for a full offseason to ensure cap space for Carey Price and P.K. Subban, the Habs fell out of the playoff picture during a disastrous 2011-12 campaign. Despite sacrificing last season for their two superstars, P.K. Subban has yet to work out a contract to return to the Montreal Canadiens.
After falling victim to the New Jersey Devils‘ dynamic forecheck this playoffs, defense proved to be the Flyers’ biggest need this offseason – a need the Flyers have yet to address. If the Philadelphia Flyers extend an offer sheet to the Habs’ young defenseman, they can force the action and possibly come away with a young defensive star in P.K. Subban.
But is it worth offering a contract to P.K. Subban?
P.K. Subban is a solid young defenseman. His physical play and explosive shot from the point make him a versatile option on any blue line. Subban is coming off a +9 season on one of the worst defensive teams in the Eastern Conference, suggesting defensive development to go with endless potential. In just two full seasons with the Habs, Subban has proven he is capable of being a superstar defenseman in the NHL. Defensemen tend to develop later than other skaters, so the 23-year-old could have his best days ahead of him. The stalled contract negotiations between the Habs and Subban open the door for the Flyers to make a big move after coming up short on Zach Parise, Shea Weber, and even Ryan Suter.
Still, the Philadelphia Flyers should not extend an offer sheet to P.K. Subban for the sole purpose of making a splash this offseason in an effort to keep pace with the rest of the Atlantic Division. Subban is certainly an imposing defensive player with a rare skill set, but his game is incomplete and character issues make signing P.K Subban a tremendous liability. Subban is the type of head-hunting skater to annihilate Devils rookie Adam Larsson with a clean hit as he enters the zone one fateful February day, then cough up the puck for the game-winning goal when veteran Patrik Elias applies a bit of physical revenge-pressure later that game. P.K. Subban’s inconsistency will not be a good fit in an open-ice system like the one Philadelphia runs. Do the Flyers really need another defenseman who buckles under a heavy forecheck? Subban, quite simply, has too much left to learn.
Subban certainly doesn’t command the same type of money Shea Weber did, but by waiting for Weber to commit to an offer sheet P.K. Subban now has leverage over the Montreal Canadiens. At 23, he could be well on his way to signing a huge contract. A reasonable offer will likely be matched by the Habs, so the Flyers would need to significantly overpay for Subban’s potential in order to poach him from Montreal. At this point in P.K. Subban’s career, it simply isn’t worth it.
Lastly, the Philadelphia Flyers cannot sustain another disaster like the Shea Weber contract. If they try to strong arm one of the most historic franchises in hockey, the Flyers could put themselves in a precarious situation. Restricted free agency offer sheets are rare, and the Flyers could extend two failed contracts in the same offseason. Aside from the embarrassment of multiple failed free agency pursuits, the Flyers have to worry about their relationships with the rest of the league going forward. With Claude Giroux approaching RFA status, is it worth alienating the entire NHL for a controversial defenseman with lots to learn?
Let P.K. Subban and the Habs work this one out on their own. In one of the worst offseasons in recent memory, maybe the Flyers should just lock up Giroux with their recovered Shea Weber money and move on.