P.K. Subban Having to Go Through Arbitration is Bad News for Montreal Canadiens

By Shane Darrow
PK Subban
Winslow Townson- USA Today Sports

The Montreal Canadiens and restricted free agent P.K. Subban failed to come to an agreement on a new contract before Friday’s arbitration hearing, and have now announced that they are going forward with the hearing. Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had no comment, but from the sound of it, it didn’t go too well for either side. Both parties gave a one-year option, so that’s how long the contract will be, and the arbitrator must make a decision within the next 48 hours.


The first question that needs to be answered is how much Subban deserves in a long-term deal. Well, if you’re like me and believe that Subban is an all-around better defenseman than Shea Weber, who is currently the highest-paid defenseman in the NHL, the minimum average annual value (AAV) would be around $8 million.

With Subban’s showing in last year’s playoffs, he proved that he is far more than a power play specialist, he is a game changer. He is one of the few defenseman in the league who can be both a shutdown defenseman in his own end, and a dangerous offensive threat from the point; however, his best attribute is the passion he plays with every shift. Subban may wear his heart on his sleeve while he’s on the ice, but having an extreme love for the game is one of the few aspects that cannot be taught.

When Subban walked into meetings before his arbitration meeting on Friday morning, I couldn’t imagine a situation where he didn’t walk out with a long-term deal – my guess was an eight-year, $64 million contract – but a failure to reach an agreement is exactly what happened.

A long-term deal could still be reached before the arbitration lays down the final ruling, but that is unlikely to happen.


The only good news for Subban is that he likely will be awarded the most amount of money by the arbitrator in NHL history. Star players rarely have to go through this process, which in itself has to sit uneasy with Subban, but it has happened before. In 2011, Weber was awarded $7.5 million in his arbitration hearing, but Subban will likely land a number closer to $8 million.

What’s sickening is that Subban already settled for a two-year bridge deal heading into the 2012-13 season, most likely believing that if he continued to improve he would be awarded with an extensive, long-term contract. All he did in those two seasons was win the Norris Trophy in 2013, and lead all defensemen in scoring over the two-year span. He also finished second on the Habs in scoring both seasons, while leading them in points in the playoffs each year.

With the Canadiens having over $11 million in salary cap room, there’s no reason for Bergevin to be treading water. The longer negotiations go on, the longer Subban is going to want to leave Montreal, and if the Canadiens believe they are going to be a Stanley Cup contender without their star defenseman, they’re going to be getting a wake up call once he’s gone.

If relations between the two parties get real bitter, it wouldn’t be shocking for Subban to sign a long-term deal with a rival team like the Boston Bruins. They currently have Subban’s younger brother, Malcolm Subban, signed to a two-way contract through 2017, once he can become an unrestricted free agent in 2016. With the combined appeal of getting back at the franchise who wouldn’t pay him, and being able to play with his brother, an unthinkable situation a few years ago could become a reality.

All in all, this isn’t a good scenario for the Canadiens – it’s not ideal for Subban, either, but he’ll at least get paid what he’s due – and failing to ink Subban to a long-term deal could really come back to hurt them in the future.

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