How the Habs Gamble with PK Subban Backfired

PK Subban is about to get paid! (Photo: André Pichette, La Presse)

PK Subban is about to get paid! (Photo: André Pichette, La Presse)

One day after their heartbreaking ECF loss to the NY Rangers, the Montreal Canadiens have to pay the piper. That piper’s name is all-star defenseman PK Subban.


Prior to the lockout, Habs GM Marc Bergevin opted to play a game of chicken with the young star. As the new man on the job, he probably was trying to show off to his bosses. Rumor had it that Subban and the Canadiens were working on a 3 year, 12 million dollar deal. Then the lockout hit and changed Montreal’s perspective a bit.

Subban would hold out, but soon realized he had no real position to bargain from. He eventually signed a 2 year deal for 5.75 million. Now he is a restricted free agent and about to break the bank.


The Canadiens now need to open their wallet and secure this perennial Norris Trophy candidate to a long term deal. We reached out to Habs Addict senior columnist and editor Fred Poulin for his thoughts. He said, “PK Subban is a top-ten defenseman in the NHL as he proved during the playoffs. Subban will probably receive an eight-year contract worth $8 million/year.”

Marc Bergevin must give PK what he wants or risk a long holdout. There is also the chance of a team like the Edmonton Oilers who are starved for top tier defenseman to offer a large contract. In essence, upsetting Subban and having to pay him anyway.

What would that contract do to Montreal? Poulin explained, “His contract means that veterans like Brian Gionta, Thomas Vanek, Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon will not be back with the team.” That means the Habs will need to get to work on how to shape their roster for next season.


What if Bergevin had the foresight to pay PK say… $5 million for 6 years? Imagine how that contract would look to the rest of the NHL. It would be considered the best contract for value in the league. It would also give the Canadiens room to fill out a top contender roster.

In contrast, look at the moves the Eastern Conference winners made this season. The Rangers realized the potential of Ryan McDonagh and avoided an RFA situation. By giving him a 6 year deal, they were able to lock him up for under 5 million a season (4.7M per / 28.2M).

Imagine if he hit the RFA market on July 1. It would be a free-for-all for his services. The move allowed the Rangers the ability to re-sign Dan Girardi and set enough cash aside for Marc Staal next summer.


I think the Canadiens and Rangers have set the precedent on how teams should deal with RFA’s going forward. Team management must do their homework and review any analysis data available to make a determination. The efforts could have a critical impact on the future success of the franchise.

Sometimes, that quick win by saving a few bucks today is a bad investment in the long run. For Montreal, a penny smart became a dollar dumb.

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