(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)
The San Jose Sharks did not make any news this week, apart from new social network software for the corporate offices. That story is kind of interesting in light of the “co-workers, not teammates” comments from come players after last season. Maybe I am reading too much into it. Meanwhile…
The NHL did have some big news, from the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban. After meeting with an arbitrator, the team came to terms with their rising star to the tune of a $9 million cap hit for eight years.
Subban’s deal makes him the third highest paid player in the NHL, until the contracts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane kick in in 2015. Of course by then there may be players being paid even more.
Subban’s actual salary changes from seven to eleven million through the contract, giving the Canadiens some flexibility in cap hit, though the contract is reported to have a no movement clause for all eight years. Evgeni Malkin also has a no movement clause for all eight years of his $9.5 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, while Alex Ovechkin has a limited no trade clause in his 13 year $9.538 million contract.
The deal should come as no surprise considering how high profile and talented Subban is, yet the team went all the way to arbitration hearings before settling with their defenseman. Additionally, his last deal was also for just two years and the parties took a long time coming to it. Why the Canadiens are so unwilling to admit the importance of this player is baffling. Even as a rookie, all eyes were on him as a rising star. Every time his minutes were cut or he was scratched it made news.
For the past two seasons, he has been first and fifth in points among NHL defensemen. He was in the top 25 in his second and third seasons, if you count the first season when he only played two games. His rise up the charts has been unrelenting. While high-scoring forwards make great press and television, NHL teams understandably value their top defensemen as longer term investments. That the Canadiens seem to have had trouble coming to terms with theirs does not speak well for their management. Ultimately, dragging their feet does not appear to have saved them any money. They still have the highest paid defenseman in the league.
Has race been a factor? It has of course been, in terms of media visibility. No matter what goes on between player and team, race is always a question in today’s society. Ugly as that is, a player of color brings even more visibility to the team and the sport, which is a good thing in an entertainment field.
Subban himself does not seem bitter about the negotiations, but how can anyone be very bitter after getting a contract like that? Even if he were in doubt about how much the team valued him, or what the team’s prospects are, he is in an excellent position to control his future. A no movement clause only binds the team unless they want to buy him out. The player can always negotiate to be traded if it comes to that.
Is the Subban contract likely to set a precedent? All contracts set precedents, but only for comparable players. There are not many players who can claim to be comparable to Subban right now. Unless his performance takes a dive, his contract will not be a burden for Montreal. He is an enromously valuable asset. Will his performance dip? In such a young player, entering his sixth season in the NHL, it might be expected for a contract like this to cause a drop in intensity. Yet all signs point to Subban continuing on an upward trajectory. Intensity seems to come naturally for him.