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» 2012 » July

  • A word on PK Subban..

    We’ve officially reached what is commonly known as the dog days of summer: because the only thing happening is bitching in heat. OK that was bad – but there really isn’t a whole lot happening in the Canadiens world right now and when that happens, as we have seen many times before, the natives tend to get a little restless.

    There is an old, tired saying that goes something along the lines of “idle hands are the devil’s playthings”. All commentary about the financially-floundering Stanley Cup runner-up aside, it must be a rule that when things slow down on summer holiday in the NHL, people tend to go bat-sh!t-crazy with speculation.

    This brings me to my subject: PK Subban.

    We’ve already heard a litany of rumour and speculation about the contract negotiations between the Canadiens and their rising star defenseman. We’ve heard that PK will sit out until he makes mega bucks. We’ve heard about trade possibilities and even that PK wants out of Montreal. While I certainly have no inside information to confirm or deny any of the reports and tweets that we’ve all seen, I do want to say that we have every reason to disbelieve ALL of them.

    First and foremost, it takes only a cursory glance at the recent history of RFA negotiations within the NHL to see that 99% of all RFAs sign with their team before training camp begins. The reason for this is very simple: RFAs have next to NO bargaining power. They cannot discuss contracts or trades with other teams. They are bound by the laws of the NHL to negotiate a contract with the team that holds their rights. The damage that a player does to his reputation (and potentially playing skills) by sitting out a season is simply not worth the risk.

    That said, there are MANY cases of players who use the threat of a long hold out to boost their perceived strength in a bargaining situation. This is most common among elite players who’s value to their team FAR exceeds the rookie salaries that they have earned to this point in their career. For example, last season Drew Doughty was the talk of the NHL with the threat that he would sit out rather than sign a low-ball contract offer from the LA Kings. It was a game of chicken between the eventual Cup Champs and their star defender. Doughty and the Kings eventually agreed to an 8 year contract worth $56 million. He signed his contract on September 30, mere days before the start of the regular season.

    Josh Bailey was a first round pick of the New York Islanders in 2008. Last season the Islanders offered him a tendering offer of just over $800K, which Bailey rejected. The two sides continued to negotiate until September 16, 2011 when they agreed to a 2 year $2.1 million contract giving Bailey a slight raise in the second year of his contract.

    Of course this topic wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that 2 short seasons ago the Montreal Canadiens had a similar situation when goaltender Carey Price waited deep into the summer before signing a two year deal that preceded the one he inked earlier this summer. We endured a great deal of speculation and rumor mongering that summer as people throughout the Habs Internet universe tried to analyze and interpret what may or may not have been happening in those negotiations. We heard that Carey wasn’t happy in Montreal. We heard that the Habs were trying to trade him. We heard a great many ridiculous things that summer, all of which turned out to be entirely false. Carey Price signed a contract on September 2, 2010 and earned every penny of his 2 year RFA deal.

    I provide this perspective only to slow down the snowball of conjecture and hyperbole that necessarily spawns each season from overly anxious fans, zealous bloggers, and lazy media. PK Subban’s contract negotiations are a product of the NHL’s system – which favors the NHL club in all respects while a player is still an RFA. PK is probably on a beach somewhere. Maybe he’s chilling out at his parent’s place in Rexdale. Knowing PK’s work ethic – he’s probably already begun his training in downtown Toronto in preparation for the upcoming season. So lets not spend the next 2 or 3 months worrying about whether or not he’ll be in the lineup on opening night, because the now-long history of RFA negotiations in the NHL supports the idea that unless something entirely unforeseen occurs, he’ll be there.

    -Mats

  • Eller signs and what is left..

    As you are all aware, Lars (Larry) Eller has signed a 2 year deal totaling $2.65 over the course of the contract which can only be seen as a steal for what Eller could provide to this team over the next two seasons. As a Restricted Free Agent, Eller didn’t really have much in the way of negotiating power, and as we have seen in the past, comparable players are used to determine the contract value. This is why RFAs such as Carey Price and Drew Doughty have held out for so long in the past before signing – when there are no real comparables you’re bound to be ripped off, which will lead a player to exercise his only leverage – to hold out.

    Still, Eller’s deal is certainly worth a second look because I think Montreal has benefited incredibly from circumstance to get a VERY good deal for what Eller will be. The great Dane has underrated size and toughness. He’s certainly not a fighter, but we saw for long stretches that Eller is the type of guy who is willing to use his size and high hockey IQ to go into corners and come out with the puck. He’s simply fantastic in tight spaces, and I would say probably has the second best passing vision on the team to Andrei Markov. All of this has yet to pay off in terms of big points, but it is critically important that we remember that Eller turned 23 two days ago!

    The real reason that I think the Habs could have really scored a coup here is that Eller has never really been given the opportunity to play solid minutes with offensively talented players. No disrespect intended to Mathieu Darche, Ryan White or Mike Blunden – but if Eller could get on the ice more than his current 15 minutes per game with talented players, I sincerely believe that he would see a large boost in his offensive production.

    While its hard to see him supplanting Plekanec or Desharnais on the powerplay at this point, Montreal would do well to get him on the ice with capable wingers every once in a while. If Eller can put up 28 points playing 15 minutes per night with Mathieu Darche and Travis Moen, it is near impossible to believe that he wouldn’t flourish with guys like Pacioretty or Gionta. The fact that Eller is most often used against the other team’s top line in a defensive role means that his value is already very high for this team. I’d like to see the team try to capitalize on the offensive game that we all witnessed when he put up 4 goals in one game versus the Winnipeg Jets last season.

    WHAT IS LEFT

    With Eller’s signing, the Habs have most of the main pieces of the team locked up for this season. Clearly a contract for PK Subban is in the works. Raphael Diaz, Aaron Palushaj and Blake Geoffrion (all RFAs) are the only remaining players from last year’s squad who will be offered contracts. Darche and Chris Campoli will be cut adrift in the UFA market. Montreal has just over $7.5M left in cap space to accommodate these players, so while a big market free agent is out of the question given how much PK will command in his contract, Bergevin certainly could still add some veteran depth if he can find a good deal.

    Hope you’re all having a great summer!