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What We Learned: Why PK Subban is perhaps too selfless

Ryan Lambert
Puck Daddy

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(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

You can really tell that PK Subban loves playing in Montreal.

For one thing, he says that he loves playing in Montreal given just about any opportunity. Second, he has repeatedly taken less than his market value to stay with the team and give it cap flexibility. He did it two years ago in accepting that ludicrous bridge deal forced upon him by Marc Bergevin, and he did it this weekend in accepting eight years at just $72 million.

Of course, getting a cap hit of $9 million per season for the next eight years doesn't exactly scream “value,” when viewed through the lens of “Well heck, $9 million is a lot of money.” That is how most people on Saturday afternoon seemed to view it. Subban now carries the third-highest cap hit in the entire league, behind only Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, and ahead of Sidney Crosby. This also, obviously, makes him the highest-paid defenseman in the league, ahead of the $7 million-plus money for Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kris Letang, Brian Campbell, Drew Doughty and Dion Phaneuf.

But what one has to keep in mind is that the vast majority of those contracts were signed prior to the latest CBA reset the salary cap to $64 million, and certainly before the numbers will explode from $69 million to as much as $80 million in the next few seasons. Further, of the defensemen making more than $7 million, only Doughty — the best defenseman in the game — is clearly better than Subban. The Weber argument is a good one to have, but the data and three or four dozen viewings of both last season have me convinced Subban has the slight edge.

Subban almost certainly would have been awarded north of $7.5 million by the arbitrator had the Habs and his representation allowed it to get that far; any arguments against his game are largely predicated on his misuse by Michel Therrien.

“He doesn't play against the toughest competition and doesn't start in his defensive zone a lot and sometimes his ice time isn't that high, and it's only because our coach doesn't deploy him that way despite his clearly being the best player on the team,” doesn't seem especially fair as a knock against his game because he can't tell his coach when and against whom and how much to put him in. Not without getting the comments about his selfishness, which he already faces unduly every time he turns the puck over (which happens when you try to go through three guys and “only” succeed like 60 percent of the time).

It's not as though Subban is, say, Torey Krug and has to be mega-protected because he has major holes in his game. He's not a perfect defenseman yet, of course, but there hasn't been one in the league since Nicklas Lidstrom's age-37 season or so (and by the way, one of Lidstrom's three best seasons ever being when he was 37 is outrageous). If Therrien starting putting Subban out there in the defensive zone more often, or against the other team's very best players, his numbers would probably suffer a bit, but he wouldn't magically become inept.

The reason he got $9 million per for the next eight years is pretty simple, really: He was the first top-five defenseman in the league to have his contract come up in a world in which teams could no longer front-load huge contracts with bogus years on the back end. Pretty simple. If the Canadiens had been given the ability to give him the same decade-plus structure as Weber's or Suter's deals, there wouldn't have been a bridge contract, and there wouldn't have a discussion about a huge cap hit. Subban would have been making $15 million in actual money next season and in 12 years been pulling $1 million. But his cap hit would have been about $6.5 million per.

All of this could have been avoided — the histrionics, the fretting, the mere potential for bad blood — had Bergevin done what Dean Lombardi (who, hey whaddaya know, he's the best GM in the league!) did with Drew Doughty and paid him his due straight away. Still got eight years out of it, too. And by 2016-17, when the cap's $80 million or more, and Doughty's still making just $7 million for three more years, boy won't that look like a great deal? Remember, before the last bridge deal, Subban wanted just $5 million per for five years. (Getting Subban on the cheap for the last two years wasn't really a particularly great move for Montreal, because it saved money at a time when it didn't really matter. The Canadiens weren't very good in either of the last two seasons, even if they did improve during that time. Not-paying him an extra $2.75 million, in effect, only enabled Bergevin to pay Douglas Murray.)

The point is, Subban could have and probably should have taken Bergevin to the cleaners by letting the arbitrator award him whatever was going to be deemed most fair. Play for a year on that, wait for the cap to go up a little bit more, and cash in for even longer. All that talk about the Habs maybe not thinking Subban is a star player (“They like him, but do they love him?” etc.) wouldn't have negated the fact that they'd have either paid him basically whatever he wanted, or let him walk.

This year's $9 million AAV could have blossomed into $9.5 million, or maybe more, if Subban had waited a year or two to get all the way to unrestricted free agency. So the truth of the matter is that Subban left money on the table to make his deal — which, again, will be a steal three years from now — work for Montreal, when they'd given him very little reason to be in any way generous toward them.

In fact, there shouldn't have been any good at all for Bergevin to come out of an arbitration hearing against a player of this caliber. But here we are, with Subban locked up on a deal that will look very affordable once people adjust their expectations for what “affordable” means in 2014-15 and beyond. Subban cost himself millions to stay in Montreal, even after getting jerked around to a ludicrous extent.

And the only apparent reason he did it was that he really, really loves playing there.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Boy, $2 million a year for three seasons sounds like a lot for Patrick Maroon. How do you justify this contract?

Arizona Coyotes: *tumbleweeds* *cricket sounds* *finishing in the bottom four in the West*

Boston Bruins: Torey Krug isn't anywhere near as good as Jake Gardiner. Come on. They're only “comparable” in that they are NHL defensemen.

Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula might buy the Bills. Hope he guarantees multiple Super Bowl titles on his first day.

Calgary Flames: You know how you know it's a good bet Joni Ortio plays in Adirondack and not Calgary? Calgary has two goalies on one-way contracts already.

Carolina Hurricanes: When I look at the Hurricanes' roster, “forward depth” is about the third-biggest concern I have.

Chicago Blackhawks: Breaking: Patrick Kane is better than Carl Hagelin.

Colorado Avalanche: This post on the importance of “hits against” numbers is nonsense. When you're concluding that there might be something wrong with Ryan O'Reilly and Paul Stastny because they don't get hit a lot, maybe your analysis isn't very good.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Still no progress in the Ryan Johansen contract talks. They've settled on a bridge deal for two years (haha) but they're still about $3 million apart on money. This couldn't possibly go badly!

Dallas Stars: Starting to look like Jason Spezza probably won't be a rental in Dallas after all.

Detroit Red Wings: Sure, Gustav Nyquist “could score 40 goals” this season. He also “could cure cancer.” I'd say they're both unlikely, as his shooting 18 percent again is a near impossibility.

Edmonton Oilers: Dallas Eakins spent some time with the Dallas Cowboys this past week, taking a bunch of meetings throughout the organization. Look, I know the Oil is hard up for center depth but they might want to try signing hockey players instead of big fat guys who keep you away from the quarterback.

Florida Panthers: Here's Aaron Ekblad mic'd up at Panthers development camp. He can skate backwards.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are better than the Sharks, you say? Hmm.

Minnesota Wild: Add a U and this is a great signing.

Montreal Canadiens: Even after he got his man, Marc Bergevin is still (rightly) taking punches.

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Good bye Simon Moser. We hardly knew ye. Like, for real, who is Simon Moser?

New Jersey Devils: The Celebrity Cafe dot com is spitting hot truth about Martin Brodeur.

New York Islanders: John Tavares's junior team is retiring his number. He had 383 points in 223 games over three and a half seasons there, so I guess he earned it.

New York Rangers: Choosing Dans Girardi and Boyle over a Marc Staal extension wouldn't be very smart.

Ottawa Senators: There's been more progress on the Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur extensions, it seems. That's actually a little surprising.

Philadelphia Flyers: Hearing Adam Hall signed with a Swiss team makes you realize something -- Adam Hall was in the NHL last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Really like this deal with Nick Spaling. Perfectly reasonable deal for a solid third-line guy.

San Jose Sharks: I love this headline.

St. Louis Blues: At this point, if your last name is Stastny you are legally obligated to play for the Blues.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Hmm, this goalie just had his first-ever full season and more than doubled his all-time games played. He also significantly outperformed his career average save percentage. He also got hurt at the end of the year. Better give him almost $6 million.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Phil please don't do this to yourself.

Vancouver Canucks: This may be overstating things.

Washington Capitals: WHAT IS BRIAN MCLELLAN DOING? Noooo Brian!

Winnipeg Jets: Characterizing TJ Galiardi as a “Flames reject,” while technically true, really isn't fair. All his numbers say he was good for Calgary despite being a near-constant healthy scratch. This was an actual good fourth-line acquisition. The Flames incorrectly assessing talent and mis-valuing player contribution? Naaaaah.

Gold Star Award

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(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Ducks will retire Teemu Selanne's number in January, when the team hosts the Winnipeg Jets, for whom Selanne never played.

Minus of the Weekend  

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(Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

(Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

 

Jim Paek on South Korea's chances at the coming Olympics: “Look at the 1980 U.S. team (when collegians won Olympic gold). Not saying we’ll do that, but you never want to set your goals low. You might as well shoot for the stars if you can.” Log off, Jim.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “JayP812” wants Peter Chiarelli to be his best friend.

To Boston:
Nazem Kadri
Jake Gardiner

To Toronto:
Reilly Smith
Torey Krug

Signoff
I never buy anything off a truck except stereos and stamps. Love that stamp truck.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here

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