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Game 3: Habs/Capitals

  • Here’s a useless fact for you. When I was a kid, I used to hate the Washington Capitals because they copied the Montreal Canadiens colours. You know what – screw them.. they still suck for that.

    I wasn’t going to talk about Boob McKenzie’s (see what I did ther… oh never mind) tweet that has caused a stir in Habsland, that it is more likely that PK Subban is traded than signed.  I wasn’t going to do it, but now its bugging me more and more and I feel like – what was I going to write about anyway? The game? Nah.

    I love the hockey rumour mill as much as the next guy. Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger and the rest of their ilk do an incredible job keeping their collective finger on the pulse of the hockey world. But the bat-sh!t craziness that necessarily follows their tweets is a little much sometimes (actually a lot too much).

    When I think about the rumours that come out – my first thought is always the same: how does this proposed trade make sense for both sides?  So when you hear that Montreal is going to trade Michael Blunden for Steven Stamkos its relatively easy to see that one side would never make the trade, given the fact it makes zero sense for their franchise. It gets a little harder to detect BS when the rumour involves information like “Subban more likely to be traded than signed”.

    First of all, to actually know that information to be true you have to be one of only a few people on earth: PK Subban, Don Meehan, Marc Bergevin, or one of their very tight inner circle. No one else knows because absolutely no one else is in the room when the conversation is had. We all saw first hand how ridiculous this can all be with the NHL lockout. New rumours popped up every day about how good or bad the negotiations were going. Everything was doom and gloom until one side made a concession that led to the deal.  So lets just say this about the negotiations: we have no idea, either way, whether a deal could be made or not.

    Lets just say for the sake of playing this out that the only two options for Bergevin are to pay Subban more than he thinks he is worth, or to trade him. What would Bergevin have to consider in order to make a deal?

    First of all he would need to consider his roster needs over the upcoming years. PK Subban is currently the team’s #1 defenseman. There is no getting around that. He played the 14th most minutes in the entire NHL last year, and the 19th most minutes per game. As much as it is nice to have 34 year old Andrei Markov back on the ice, he is not capable of logging the type of minutes that Subban does – in all situations. Yes, the Habs have a talented crop of defensemen playing in Hamilton, but the impact they will have on the NHL roster over the next 2 seasons is likely to be limited. Just look at PK Subban himself as a measuring stick on how young defenders acclimatize to the NHL. Neither Beaulieu or Tinordi have shown thus far in the AHL season that they are ready to move up a level. So what would the cost be to the Montreal Canadiens be if PK Subban doesn’t come back? With no PK Subban you’re talking about top 4 minutes for one of Francis Boullion, Tomas Kaberle or Raphael Diaz. You could get away with that for one or two games, but as a long term solution your team is destined for last place if this is the case. If you lose PK Subban, you need to at least replace him with a top 4 defenseman. And that is the crux of the issue.

    Most of the trade scenarios that have popped up have indicated that a deal would return Montreal a young, dynamic forward like Sean Couturier, Brayden Shenn or some other young forward. Would Montreal like to have one of those players? Heck ya. At the cost of losing their #1, 23 year old defenseman? Not in this life.

    Anything less than a brutal overpay of a trade (because again, I’d love to have Stamkos) wouldn’t be worth Montreal’s effort. The cost of gaining a young, dynamic forward wouldn’t justify the trade, because as soon as Montreal makes that trade, they join the host of teams in the NHL trying somehow to secure a top pairing defenseman. This is the critical reason why I don’t think Subban will be dealt. Montreal cannot afford to hijack it’s rebuild by dealing young players. Now is the time to hoard young players. Now is the time to deal veterans.

    The second option that I referenced above was for Bergevin to pay Subban more than he thinks he is worth. Even though I think there is a deal out there for Subban that is fair for both sides, let’s explore this option.

    The critical issue holding up the signing of PK Subban is the disparity between the two sides over what PK’s value is in monetary terms, both in the near future, and at present. Is PK Subban worth more than Michael Del Zotto’s recently signed contract for 2 seasons at a cap hit of $2.55M? Its a great comparison.  Del Zotto has played about 50 more games in the NHL than PK, but they are both very similar in terms of ice time, points per game, and their ability to play in all situations. Seems easy to see that Subban should just sign a 2 year deal for a $3M cap hit and be happy right?

    Wrong. Tyler Myers signed a new contract this summer too. 7 years $38M. He is pegged at a cap hit of $5.5M per season, and makes $12M this year due to how the contract is structured. And guess what.. even though Myers has played about 59 more games than Subban in the NHL (and that ain’t nothing), he barely averages more points per game (.49 for Myers vs .48 for Subban), while averaging less time on ice.

    Once you start looking at the contracts of young players in Subban’s age-group, ice time and production – you get a clearer and clearer (or murkier and murkier depending on how you look at it) picture of the difficulty in pegging Subban’s value. He was better than Victor Hedman last season – and yet Hedman makes $20M over 5 years for a tidy $4M cap hit. He was arguably equally as valuable as Drew Doughty last season and Doughty’s cap hit is $7M per season for 8 years. He was more valuable than Jon Carlson last season who has a cap hit of $3.9M per season. You can make the case for every figure between $2.55M and $7M per season, which is why we see the trouble in negotiations that we do. Still, if you’re aware of the trend in the NHL, it becomes clear that young defensemen are getting paid more than they used to, and at an earlier age.

    Everything about this situation seems to scream for a bridge contract for a couple years in the neighborhood of $4M per season. Even so, NONE of us are in the room when these negotiations go on. Don Meehan is well within reason to try to get the type of money and stability that other top defensemen have earned in their age 22 & 23 seasons. By the same token, Marc Bergevin is certainly justified on not wanting to break the bank on a Restricted Free Agent who has yet to realize his true potential. But given the problems that dealing Subban would create for the Montreal Canadiens for the next 2+ seasons on defense, I think it is highly unlikely that PK is dealt. Getting a top scoring prospect simply isn’t going to cut it in this situation.

    Unless some GM swoops in and absolutely knocks Marc Bergevin’s socks off (did I mention how much we’d love Steven Stamkos?), the problem of the missing top pairing defender is not worth the return. I’ve already spilled more ink on this topic than I meant to – but I felt it necessary to lay out (at least in my eyes) the reasons why PK Subban is worth more than his perceived trade value.


  1. #1 Avatar37 says:
    January 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I typically like Bob McKenzie’s analysis, I find he’s usually pretty accurate. He’s not saying that PK will be traded, just that it’s a more likely scenario. I think he’s got enough experience to pontificate about odds and likely scenarios, so I’m not going to begrudge him that.

    Our top 4 defensemen are: Markov-Gorges-Emelin and …? My guess is either Weber or Bouillon, but don’t forget that we have St-Denis in Hamilton who has shown he’s capable of filling in as a defensive defenseman. I’d be fine putting St-Denis as a 4th pairing if Bouillon can’t handle it, but so far, Bouillon seems to be doing just fine. So, while losing PK would be a blow, it wouldn’t be a devastating one, and the question becomes, do we feel PK contributes enough to become the second highest paid player on our team, ahead of Markov? Because, while I like PK, I don’t think he’s shown he has Markov’s game, and hasn’t earned being paid more than Markov is. And what does it say to Pacioretty or Cole if PK is given a bigger contract than they have?

    I’d argue that giving in to PK’s demands would set a dangerous precedent, one that Bergevin can’t allow himself to set, and while I’d love to see PK fill in our top 4 defensemen, if he’s not willing to play at a reasonable price, it’s time to move on. I wonder if Philly would be interested in a Subban – Bourque for Hartnell – Giroux trade? Maybe throw in a 3rd round pick?

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