Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Time to pay the piper and sign Subban

Habs fans have forgotten, enthusiasm is a good thing
It’s hard to fully comprehend the anger and frustration directed towards P.K. Subban for holding out on the Montreal Canadiens, especially when we know via Bob McKenzie on the NHL Network that the offer made by Marc Bergevin; $2.75 Million x 2 years. The same number that was put of the table this past summer which is now collecting a fine layer of dust.

Subban has been asked to do too much, too soon and he delivered. In the absence of Andrei Markov, P.K. Subban has proven in just 181 NHL games (to everyone but the Montreal Canadiens it seems) to be a legitimate 1st pairing defenseman. An impressive feat considering he spent just 23 of those 181 games on the ice with Andrei Markov.

The biggest concern since draft day was his defense and each year he got better, in spite of tougher assignments and harder minutes. Last year’s fiasco ended with Subban being a respectable +9, +16 if you forgive the empty net goals against while he was out there trying to tie the game. That’s second only to the +18 put up by Josh Gorges with empty net goals factored in. Not bad when you consider the Habs were outscored by 14 goals last season.

Subban logged the 12th most Power Play minutes among defensemen, was 14th in Total Minutes, 28th in Points, 32nd in Even Strength minutes, 37th in Penalty Kill minutes, tied for 47th in Plus Minus, 56th in Take Aways, 73rd in Hits and 80th in blocked shots.  When you consider Fancy Stat rankings among defensemen who've logged at least 60 games, Subban was 15th in Relative Corsi Quality of Competition and 28th in Corsi Quality of Competition... on a team that finished 28th in the NHL.

Sit back and let that soak in for a moment because what you’re looking at is a 1B defenseman across the board, in a sophomore season with just 181 total games of NHL experience. The question isn't whether P.K. Subban has proven himself but how much better he can get. My belief is that a string of 45+ point seasons are in Subban’s future, once he dials in that golf swing he calls a slap shot while at maintaining, if not improving his other rankings.

Pay the Man

The going rate for a 1B defenseman today is $5.25 Million +/- 250k so while the Canadiens have the space to fit Subban under their cap now and going forward; with Scott Gomez and likely one of Kaberle/Bourque being bought out penalty free this summer, why is Marc Bergevin still sitting on his original 2 year offer worth an average of $2.75 Million?

Max Pacioretty played only 21 more games than Subban when the Habs were convinced they’d seen enough to offer him a 6 year extension. Meanwhile, Subban has already established himself as a 1B and is still 1 or 2 years away from hitting full stride. Seeing that defensemen usually take 3-5 years to fully develop and establish themselves, I don’t see it as particularly wise for Marc Bergevin to be talking contract when that happens.

The Habs can try to insist on intermediate contracts but the rest of the NHL has recognized that once a young player has proven himself to be considered part of the solution going forward, you lock them up, long term. Why invite opportunity for a team to sign a cornerstone of your future to an offer-sheet, if only to bend you over the Cap barrel.

New Realities

When the Cap era began in 2005-06, it pushed a lot of older, more expensive veteran players out of the NHL and replaced them with young, cheap prospects, many of which rushed to the NHL. The back-draft of this with UFA age dropped to 27 is that today, long term decisions are being made league-wide on prospects much sooner than ever before and the new CBA has done little to change it.

Given that P.K. Subban has proven himself to be a reliable asset at both ends of the ice, in all situations and against all opponents and knowing that his Montreal Canadiens merchandise is selling second only to Carey Price, it’s astounding that Marc Bergevin still hasn't moved off his first offer. The kind of offer you make to players with a lot more question marks than P.K. Subban.

Time to pay the piper, and about $5 Million with a bump for Quebec living over the next 5 years ought to do it.