Despite the flurry of NHL teams dodging arbitration with their players at the last minute, it’s looking like one club is still has some work to do.
The Montreal Canadiens still need to resign Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban, and have an arbitration meeting scheduled for this Friday. It’s highly unlikely Subban ends up in another jersey next year, as he’s easily one of Montreal’s best players and just had a stellar postseason. Subban himself has gone on record as saying he wants to be a “lifer” for the Canadiens.
With that said, it appears the two sides are currently more than slightly apart on the salary for the defenseman’s new deal. Apparently, Subban is seeking $8.5 million per year in arbitration, while the Habs are countering with $5.25 million. It’s a sizeable gap, and it also makes you wonder if the club is relying a little too heavily on Subban’s publicized desire to stay in Montreal.
The Canadiens know what they have in Subban; one of the league’s best defenseman who also contributes a ton offensively. Losing him would leave a big hole to fill on the roster. However, $5.25 million is a pretty low offer, one that doesn’t really reflect Subban’s aforementioned qualities. For reference, this offer would be a cheaper deal than the laughable contract the Washington Capitals gave Brooks Orpik.
While Subban is unlikely to get his desired $8.5 million, he definitely deserves more than Montreal’s initial offer. But, was the low proposal just the Canadiens starting from the bottom and working their way to a middle ground, or does the team figure “hey, he wants to be here, maybe we can get him a little cheaper.”
It’s not a crazy thought at surface level. Despite the fact odds favor him staying in Montreal, Subban loses some leverage when he makes public statements saying he doesn’t want to go anywhere else. It doesn’t press the team up against the wall, and it also can deter other teams from submitting counter offers. The team knows this, and if per chance the two sides can’t come to an agreement before the arbitration hearing, they can definitely use said loyalty to their advantage.
Again, it’s still very unlikely Montreal and Subban can’t find a salary they can both appreciate. But the extremely low initial by the Canadiens is still a bit head-scratching. One has to think Subban had himself a good laugh when he first saw it. At the same time, he could easily see it and wonder if the team feels the same way about keeping him around long-term.
There’s still time for Subban and Montreal to follow the league trend and avoid arbitration. These latest salary offers are unlikely to be the last ones. However, the Canadiens need to make sure they don’t just bank on Subban’s love for the team and try to keep him for less than he’s worth. He may want to be a lifer, but if he keeps getting low offers, things could change.