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.