Posts tagged ‘Marc Bergevin’

July 2, 2013

Fool’s Gold: The Canadiens Should Ignore Vincent Lecavalier

by Jacob Saltiel

Why the long face?


Little more than a year since he went to work for the Canadiens, Marc Bergevin’s established that he’s one of the more patient general managers. Left with a roster of some quality young and veteran players alongside some very unfortunate contracts, Bergevin acted deliberately to give the Canadiens roster flexibility. Unlike mad scientists such as Paul Holmgren or Glen Sather, who seem to make big moves for the sake of making big moves, Bergevin’s restrained himself from making any silly deals at the trade deadline or the draft. Having just finished buying out another of Pierre Gauthier’s mistakes in Tomas Kaberle, why should Bergevin rush to meet Vincent Lecavalier’s rumoured contract demands? 4-6 years at $4-5m/year is a lot to pay for a 33 year old’s past-production.

Cap Cloggage

As of now, the Canadiens have a little more than $9m available in cap space, though they only have 10 forwards signed for next year. Barring a shocking trade, Bergevin has 8 defencemen and 2 goalies under contract, so, if he wants to use all of that space, he’ll need at least 3, and possibly 4 more forwards to fill out the 3rd and 4th lines.

Lecavalier would take up more than half of that space on his own, and the Canadiens already have 3 centres who should play offensive roles in Toms Plekanec (who just might be better than Lecavalier in this point in their respective careers), Lars Eller (who just might be developing into a better player as you read this), and David Desharnais. Acquiring Lecavalier would force the Canadiens to trade one of those 3, meaning goodbye Desharnais. Bergevin would be left trying to unload the contract he just signed Desharnais to, and after a year in which Desharnais struggled, too.

While Lecavalier’s a bargain in comparison to that $7.27m/year cap hit for the rest of recorded time he carried in Tampa Bay, $4-5m/year for 4-6 years of commitment to a player who will only decline at this point in his career is dicey for a team that’s still several players away from being a Cup contender.

Quite simply, Lecavalier isn’t worth that money to the Habs unless you strongly believe that he’ll make the difference between a parade and not in the next few years. Does Bergevin?

Repatriating a Professional Hockey Athlete

According to that Lebrun article above, the Canadiens must be serious about adding Lecavalier: “The Habs, by the way, had owner Geoff Molson, GM Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien in their meeting with the hometown boy.”

Sure, Bergevin could just be gauging the market for Lecavalier without intending to go as high as Lecavalier’s asking price, but what are they hoping to get out of him exactly?

Lecavalier posted a -6.03 CORSI last season on a weak Tampa Bay team. Notice that even Stamkos only had a 1.99 CORSI and you realize that Lecavalier’s numbers were probably being dragged down a bit by his team’s shoddy defence. All this means is that while Lecavalier’s been on the ice, the other team’s had a decent advantage in scoring opportunities. Of course, this is just one year’s example. More distressing is that the last time Lecavalier led Tampa Bay’s centres in CORSI was during the 2009-2010 season. The year after that, he was far behind Dominic Moore (!) in CORSI, with a 1.91 rating compared to Moore’s 9.25.

The discrepancy there might be that Lecavalier faced tougher competition, but since the emergence of Steven Stamkos, Lecavalier’s numbers haven’t improved as other teams began to focus on the younger star. In theory, Lecavalier should be facing softer competition and providing more scoring opportunities against the competition than he’s giving up on his own goalie.

Regardless, Lecavalier believes he still has what it takes to play against top competition, and said as much in Arpon Basu’s article on about his free agency: “I believe in my abilities and I think I can be a top center for a team,” [Lecavalier] said. “It remains to be seen what the other teams think of me, but I have confidence in my abilities.”

The numbers above suggest otherwise. One hopes that Bergevin, along with the assumed legion of fans who lust for Lecavalier, isn’t interested in sigining Lecavalier simply because it would look cool to put him in a Habs jersey. Actually, that would be pretty cool if it was for a year or two at a reasonable cap hit, but, as indicated, Lecavalier’s looking for term and dollars.

Move Along

Given the problems associated with signing Lecavalier and the very real possibility that his days as an elite centre are over, Bergevin should pass. Considering the contract that Lecavalier reportedly wants, how much of a difference will there be between that contract and whatever David Clarkson or Ryane Clowe end up receiving? While Clarkson and Clowe have not historically been as good as Lecavalier, they both fill actual holes in the Canadiens lineup, in that they play the wing- the Canadiens need a Ryder replacement- and both of them are big and tough. Lecavalier’s big, but he’s not particularly gritty, and seems to have been struggling defensively in recent years. Additionally, both are younger, and on a contract of similar term to Lecavalier’s are much more likely to provide value for most of the years of those deals.

Lecavalier’s a declining asset, no matter how much promise he showed as an 18 year old rookie 15 years ago or how successful his career in Tampa Bay’s been. Steve Yzerman had to pay him to stay away in the hopes of improving his team. If Lecavalier won’t take more of a bargain than he’s asking for, it’s unclear why the Canadiens, or any team really, should re-do the mistake the Lightning just corrected.

Let’s see more of that patience, Bergevin.

April 4, 2013

A Guide to Recognizing Your Mediocre GMs: Part 1 Joe Nieuwendyk

by Jacob Saltiel

“Is that tie available for a 2nd round pick and a prospect?”

(This multi-part series isn’t about the Canadiens, but as a Habs fan, you might want to know which GM’s you want Bergevin to call up on the red, white, and blue trades telephone. What follows is a detailed analysis of recent trades by rival GMs)

The Once and Future Chump

It was sad to see the Atlanta Thrashers go.

Not because it makes Tom Glavine cry silently to himself in his roomful of baseball awards or because the Thrashers were, generally speaking, a free 2 points to any team willing to ice an entire lineup against them. No, when the Thrashers moved, the the 29 other GM’s in the league lost their ideal trade partner, Don Waddell.

The halcyon days of trading overpaid veterans or just a collection of low-ceiling prospects and deceptively mediocre draft picks for talent simply by dialing the ATL area code (404) over.

Take, for example, the following transactions from the twilight of Waddell’s reign:

1) Braydon Coburn, Philly’s top-3 defenceman, actually started in Atlanta. He was traded as a prospect straight-up for 2 years of an ancient Alexei Zhitnik. This was the only year the Thrashers organization made the playoffs, and Waddell thought this might help them out.

2) For that same playoff crawl, Waddell acquired 22 games of Keith Tkachuk for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick spread out over 2 years to St Louis. Following that off-season when Tkachuk became a free agent, he promptly re-signed with the Blues for 3 more productive seasons.

Of course, after making these trades, the Thrashers were promptly swept in the 1st round.

3) Did you know that Waddell had Heatley and Hossa at one point in the organization’s history? Well, he lost both the way one loses their car keys in the wash.

Here’s a quick account of the complicated machinations that led to Patrice Cormier almost playing regularly for the Winnepeg Jets:

– Heatley traded straight-up almost 3 years of Hossa.

 -After it became clear that Hossa wouldn’t extend his contract, Waddell had to act again. Hossa was traded to Pittsburgh for Colby Armstrong, Erik Christensen, Angelo Esposito, and a 1st round pick (29th). Yes. The Colby Armstrong most recently seen limping off the ice at Flambeau Field.

4) But wait! Both Heatley and Hossa had a particularly talented linemate, first name Ilya. Tired of the mediocrity and wanting to win, Kovalchuk justifiably refused to extend his contract too. Waddell’s long search for equal value was confounded by the poorly kept secret of Kovalchuk’s exorbitating contract demands, but what followed is a masterpiece in getting hosed by the crafty Lou Lamoriello.

Atlanta swapped 2nd round picks with Jersey as part of the trade, so the return for one of the best offensive players of this generation of NHL’ers, was Bergfors, Oduya, Cormier, and a 1st round pick. Oduya was probably the best player in that haul, and the 1st is nice, but REALLY?! A solid 3rd defenceman, maybe a grinder out of Cormier, and a 1st round pick for Kovalchuk? Encore, Don, encore!

But those days are over. Or, were…

The King is Dead, Long Live the King

It’s a good thing Nieuwendyk found work in NHL upper management. Judging by the way he gambles with young prospects, if he weren’t a GM, he’d defaulting on his mortgage and appearing on EducAlcool ads between periods of Habs games thrice weekly. To keep him on the rails, Dallas upper management also includes Mark Recchi (reputed M.D.) and Bob Gainey. If you’re a Habs fan reading this, you’ll be familiar with the latter’s work. The fascinating thing about the Dallas organization right now is the stark difference in aptitude between drafting and managing players.

Consider that the Stars have recently found players like Benn, Neal, and Eriksson outside of the 1st round. Whoever they have watching the kids is good at their job. That’s where the good news ends if your a Dallas fan, since a quick survey of Nieuwendyk’s moves shows that these players may not be around as long as you think- if they aren’t already gone.

To beat a dead horse, trading Neal and Niskanen for Goligoski established that Nieuwendyk criminally underrates his own assets. Niskanen isn’t exactly a throw-in either, and even if Goligoski scores 30-40 points a season, it’s hard to justify giving away a power forward like Neal who was just entering restricted free agency without getting back a high pick in return. It’s not just the obvious mismatch in talent that makes this trade bad, but the subtleties of the CBA’s that seem to have escaped Nieuwendyk.

Trading away Brad Richards and his expiring contract at the deadline a couple of seasons ago might have returned a similarly talented young player. Nieuwendyk didn’t do that, opting instead to gamble that his team could make the playoffs as a low seed. Of course, the Stars went on to miss the playoffs and Richards escaped to New York in a clear violation of the sports management principle that one shouldn’t build a team to finish in 8th place, but to win it all.

And, well, if you’re going to set lofty standards for your organization such as “finish just outside of the top half of the league”, you shouldn’t, y’know, miss by 2 points.


The negotiation with Jamie Benn compounded this perception of Nieuwendyk’s lack of comprehension of the salary cap. With Benn refusing to sign a contract coming out of his entry level deal, Nieuwendyk managed to thread the needle between keeping Benn’s salary down- $5.25m/year when the player has no leverage isn’t exactly a bargain- and buying Benn’s expensive unrestricted free agency years. In fact, Nieuwendyk signed him exactly to when he’d hit the market (2917), meaning that unless Benn’s ability falls off a cliff, he’s going to get really pricey. In the simplest terms, Nieuwendyk failed to use his leverage over Benn to any effect. One imagines Benn’s agent hanging up the phone and saying “Really?”

Two other recent moves, Ryder and a 3rd for Cole and Steve Ott and Pardy for Derek Roy were at best moving sideways, at worst silly. Ott, a grinder who scores in the mid-30’s had value to any playoff team and it’s not implausible that most playoff teams would have wanted him last off-season. The return? Impending unrestricted free agent Roy, whose last two seasons were marred by injury or mediocrity. It’s not that Roy’s a bad player, but Ott was signed for more years and, as demonstrated yesterday, the Stars were forced to trade Roy away because of their iffy playoff status and fruitless contract negotiations. A 2nd round pick and 23 year old prospect Kevin Connauton isn’t a terrible return, but that he had to make this trade so soon shows a certain aptitude for painting oneself into a corner.

Bergevin’s gem of a trade with Nieuwendyk led to the Stars taking on the last 2+ years of Cole’s contract- after Cole surely played his best hockey of that deal last year. It’s hard to imagine Ryder being worth less had Nieuwendyk simply waited for the trade deadline to move the productive forward, let alone that Bergevin sampled a 3rd round pick in the deal.

So, when Jagr was dealt to Boston for a 2nd (possibly a 1st) pick and two prospects, it was time to roll the laugh track. Not because an expiring contract on Jagr wasn’t worth the conditional pick, but because Nieuwendyk called the two players he received in return prospects. Lane MacDiermid and the aptly named Cody Payne are goons who can’t really be considered prospects since, if they develop appropriately, they might play 7 minutes a night. In a league where, any year now, staged fighting, and hence the goon role, might be disappearing.

Hold The Line

Whichever hockey team you cheer for (not you, Stars fans), pay close attention the next time the words ‘Stars’ and ‘trade’ appear on your web browser/Sportscentre newsticker. Gamblin’ Joe might have just brilliantly solved a salary cap crunch or created an unstoppable line- for a rival team in your division in your division.

Until this effect becomes too obvious, let’s hope the media keeps confusing Nieuwendyk’s talent as a player and a manger. Perhaps some of this is unfair to Joe. Perhaps there are extenuating circumstances. Perhaps an internet leak revealed to many other GM’s in the league incriminating photos of Joe involving inflatable animals, mezcal, and individuals in clown get-up not named Mrs. Nieuwendyk. After all, Tijuana isn’t that far away. Perhaps not. Perhaps his reign is characterized by poor evaluation of the value of his own players and how the salary cap works.

February 27, 2013

Rydin’ Dirty: Canadiens Acquire Michael Ryder

by Jacob Saltiel

Yes, Joe, I’m listening… Go on…

Michael Ryder returns, and likely with him the bitter refrain from RDS analysts saying “O quelle mauvais jeu par Ryder!” While Erik Cole was an excellent player for the Habs, it’s almost certain the Canadiens win this trade. Joe Nieuwendyk might still be better at NHL hockey than NHL management.

Habs’ Plunder

Since leaving Montreal, Ryder’s scored two season of 27+ goals, and been a complementary offensive player in the other two seasons. Last year (35 goals) was his most productive since leaving Flambeau Field. He’s 32 and on an expiring $3.5m/yr contract, and he’s been as effective this year, scoring 14 points in 19 games. In addition, the Habs receive a 3rd round draft pick. Oh, and Cole, who was 2 years older, and signed for 2 additional seasons after this one at $4.5m/yr, immediately comes off the books.

When you add it up, the Canadiens got a younger player who produces about as much offence as the one they traded away, additional cap space this year ($1m), a 3rd round pick, and also cap flexibility this summer. While Cole’s veteran leadership (unquantifiable, but the media reports that it exists), and grit will be missed, does anyone believe that the Canadiens didn’t get the best year of that contract last year?

Seeing Stars

The assumption is that Nieuwendyk’s team-building strategy is to hire players who played in the league during his career. Cole will join Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr for an elderly group of forwards. He might even be effective. It’s not as if the Stars need the cap space, but it’s a curious move, since Cole may well decline over the course of the rest of this deal.

Darren Dreger commented on TSN that this move was driven by the Dallas ‘brain trust’ of Nieuwendyk, Mark Recchi, and Bob Gainey. Ol’ Dregs must have been performing satire by referring to that group as a brain trust, since they’re neither trustworthy, nor particularly cerebral when it’s come to recent trades and acquisitions. Leaving aside that Dr. Recchi once tried to diagnose a player on another team with faking his own death at the hands of Chara, here are some moves that occured with some combination of those 3 in charge:

– James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski.

– Goligoski immediately signed to $4.6m/year extension until 2016.

– Brad Richards leaves as a free agent for nothing;.

– Steve Ott and Adam Pardy (WHO LIKES TO PARDY?!) traded for 1 year of Derek Roy (UFA this summer).

– Signed a 40 year old Ray Whitney to a 2 year contract, when CBA rules means that his number stays on the salary cap even if Planet Earth explodes as David Attenborough narrates “Witness… the vast fury of the cosmos…”

–  Drawing out RFA negotiations with Jamie Benn, then signing him to a $5.25m/yr contract that doesn’t lock him up for many of his UFA years. So, it’s neither a savings, nor will it stop Benn from skipping town when he’s 28.

Despite this, Dallas is in 6th place in the West. They’ve played more games than anyone but Columbus and Nashville, and are only 2 points out of 10th. It’s unclear if anyone can remember the last time they made the playoffs.

Now, Cole may produce as much offence as Ryder did. Even if he doesn’t, he’s a grittier player. The real worry though is Nieuwendyk’s apparent determination to play older veterans. For example, of his core forwards, 4 of them (Cole, Whitney, Jagr, Morrow) are in their mid-30’s or early 40’s, and Derek Roy is turning 30 in May.

Leaving aside whether older players are more or less injury prone, the issue is that all of them are known commodities. Is it conceivable that any of them improve their production? Cole had a career year last year, but that might be the high water mark. For each of them, the odds are more likely that they begin to decline. So, Joe, your team is in 6th, can dive to 10th at any moment, and over the last 4 years has finished 10th, 9th, 12th, and 12th. No high draft picks and no playoffs. Fantastic work threading that needle.

In the meantime, Dallas reduced their flexibility with Cole’s contract, and gave away a draft pick.

The Verdict

Marc Bergevin made a shrewd move. Even though the Habs are 1st place, he’s still making moves that clear cap space for the upcoming summer. Remember that this summer, the following players may be UFAS: Clarkson, Clowe, Perry, and Getzlaf. While Cole is a good player, he was never going to gain more value as a trade chip or player. In selling high, Bergevin acquire a player who may replace Cole’s offence, and somehow extorted a 3rd round pick out of the process.

January 31, 2013

This Is How You Get People To Click On Your Website: The Canadian Press and PK Subban

by Jacob Saltiel

Oh hey…

Yesterday an article with the title “Subban Must Accept New Rules Before Rejoining Canadiens” went up on

Wow, eh? Sure sounds like the Canadiens haven’t taken an ‘all is forgiven’ approach to re-signing one of their best young players. With articles like that appearing alongside articles with titles like “No Celebrating In Habs’ Dressing Room Over Subban Signing“, you’d think that Subban ran over Bergevin’s dog or something.

The articles are attributed to The Canadian Press, but John Lu on TSN probably did the reporting, at least based on the “Moving Forward” video posted on TSN (accessible to the right of the article in the TSN video panel) where he interviewed the players.

Mixed Reactions to Mixed Reaction

Now, it’s true that the Canadian Press’ job is to create compelling stories, but it sure looks like they’re trying to manufacture a controversy where there may not be one at all. The narrative: “OH MY GOD PERNELL’S TEAMMATES HATE HIM” is much more likely to get the average hockey reader to click on their link than is “Montreal Canadiens go about their business while Subban rejoins team following lengthy contract negotiation”.

In both of the articles linked to above, the headlines don’t even correspond to the content that follows. The phrase ‘mixed reaction’ means that some people approve and some people don’t. In fact, in examining the article, it’s not so much a case of ‘mixed reactions’ as it is a case of players not wanting to discuss someone who isn’t there. As Markov said: “He’s not in the room yet, so let’s talk about it when he’s going to be in the room.” Ryan White, meanwhile, said “It’s a relief” and Lars Eller is quoted at the very bottom of the article as saying “A player of P.K.’s calibre is always welcome in the lineup.” Gorges’ comments about never having played with a player who held out before and taking a wait and see approach are non-committal, rather than explicitly disapproving. So, since no one actually said that they were unhappy to see Subban back, the phrase ‘mixed reaction’ quite simply does not apply here. The meanest thing anyone said about Subban was reported on “When someone suggested to Lars Eller that P.K. wanted to be known as The Subbanator, the Danish forward replied: “We’re going to call him Pernell.”A more accurate headline might have read “CANADIENS REFUSE TO POP BOTTLES OF VEUVE CLIQUOT AT SUBBAN CONTRACT SIGNING”. Had that been the headline, and had the Canadian Press entered the dressing room and failed to find this, this, or evidence of this happening, it would be accurate.

The Rules Are Up On the Fridge Door

The other article, about Subban accepting new rules, is silly. Considering that the Canadiens brought in a new general manager and coach in the offseason, do you know who else had to “accept new rules before re-joining the Canadiens?” If your answer was “EVERY SINGLE PLAYER, PROSPECT, AND EMPLOYEE” then your answer was correct. That’s generally what happens when any organization changes management, but The Canadian Press would have you believe that Subban is somehow different. The headline would only be meaningful if the reporter had some quotation or source indicating that Subban would get back in the lineup when he agreed to wear a full-caged helmet, or only use one skate in practices and games from now on.

The TSN article has no reference to anything of this type, only vague statements about the team’s philosophy:

“The first thing Marc Bergevin and I did was sit down with (Subban) and explain our philosophy and he understood where we’re coming from,” Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. “It was a good, honest conversation with P.K. and we just want to make sure everyone is on the same page.”

Oh, really? Therrien had a sit-down with a player who, until now, wasn’t under contract to explain his coaching philosophy? OH DON’T HIT THAT BLOGPOST BUTTON YET! In both cases, the headlines above are cynically designed to get angsty-Habs fans to click on the articles and then go Edvard Munch’s The Scream on one another.

Look, it may be the case that Subban is an awful person and worse teammate, but to print this in an official media outlet would require, uhm, facts, right? When an anonymous player on the Canadiens goes on record stating that Subban is never invited to team birthday parties, that’ll be news. Or, hey, shouldn’t there be an answer to the question “why?” in these articles somewhere? Why might his teammates and managers be so pissed at him? Is that clearly mentioned anywhere? Is it even speculated about? There must be some form of telepathic mind-reading going on that the writer isn’t at liberty to divulge. Based on the quotations gleaned from conversations with the actual players involved, very little has actually been said that supports the main arguments of the two posts.

Until these questions are answered and supported by evidence, these types of articles will remain unpersuasive and not far removed from simple mudslinging. There may still be a story worth reporting here, but the articles posted above are poor examples of what fans should be reading on the matter.

January 29, 2013

Galentine’s Day Comes Early: Subban Signs, Galchenyuk and Gallagher to Stay for the Season

by Jacob Saltiel

The Glasses Must Be Working

Will January 28th, 2013 be another unremarkable and cold winter’s day in Montreal or will Canadiens fans remember this as the beginning of a new era? Bergevin must be thinking playoffs and Therrien must be thinking that Galchenyuk can make many more plays like the one that set up Gallagher’s first goal.

Subban’s signing at about 7:20pm concludes the lineup moves for starting this season. How this negotiation affects the next one will affect where the Habs are in 5 years.


As covered elsewhere in this blog, it remains a dubious management move to keep Galchenyuk, even with Pacioretty out. Once Pacioretty returns, Eller’s out of a lineup spot (thanks for the memory, bud).

4 games in, the only decent team the Habs have played is the Devils. This being the case, the small sample size used to determine Galchenyuk’s suitability for playing at the NHL level doesn’t even include an elite opponent. In the last 4 games, the 3rd line has been strong and supplied good minutes to a team that, with Bourque finally proving capable of lighting up an EKG if not a goal lamp and when Pacioretty was healthy, had solid lines from to bottom.

Enthusiasm for the hot start should be tempered by the quality of competition*  and many of the goals coming from the unreliable presence of the excellent Markov. If the Canadiens are outside of the playoffs 6 weeks from now and Galchenyuk is slumping or injured, Bergevin’s decisive handling of Galchenyuk will be second-guessed.

If the Canadiens make the playoffs and win a couple of rounds, then the above-mentioned caveats matter little.

Galchenyuk makes about $3.225m/year for 3 years, depending on which performance bonuses he reaches.


On the other hand, Gallagher fits on this team on any of the top-3 lines as a scrappy little guy who can pot some goals and irritate the other teams’ D. His style of play is needed in Montreal, as he complements Cole and Pacioretty’s relentless pursuit of the puck into the crease and behind the goalie. Not all of his goals will be as pretty as his first, but barring injury- he’s listed at only 163lbs- he should score reliably in his role as a smilier Ryan Smyth in miniature.

Gallagher makes less than a third of Galchenyuk’s money at $870,000/year for the next 3 years, and he should be full value.


It’s tempting to say ‘finally!’ but it’s only 4 games into the season and given the incompatible bargaining positions of the two sides, the effect on this season shouldn’t be overstated. Bob McKenzie on TSN’s That’s Hockey reported that Subban insisted on longterm security- as any smart player should push for- and the Canadiens were adamant that it would be a 2 year deal.

What should be said is that this is a total capitulation by Subban, who does not deserve the wrath of Habs fans. No. Once he steps back into the lineup, the Habs will have a top-4 of Markov-Emelin and Gorges-Subban, which will reduce minutes for Bouillon (yay!) and plant one of Weber or Kaberle in the pressbox more or less until someone gets injured (hooray!). The big loser in this deal isn’t Subban at all, but Weber who will almost certainly be playing anywhere but in Montreal next year with Tinordi and Beaulieu breathing down his neck.

Subban playing alongside Gorges, Bouillon, and Emelin will be an oddly short but tough defence that will give away inches of ice as easilyas the Quebec Government hikes tuition (hiyo!). Markov, now that he’s figured out the Matrix, always has the puck, so all Diaz has to do is not actively attempt to fire the puck into his own net to make this an all-around strong top-6.


As for Bergevin, this deal is a conditional rather than total victory.

The value in the bridge contract comes from keeping Subban’s annual cap hit low for this summer, when about $10m comes off the cap. If Subban had been extended longterm now, that big money extension would have eaten into that cap space when Bergevin could be using it to sign pending UFAs David Clarkson or Corey Perry (an optimistic target, but one he’d at least have the money for). Whether or not Subban even plays well this season, Bergevin should offer him his longterm extension in the summer. This way, the cap hit will only bump up the following offseason when Gionta and Markov come off the books. This allows Bergevin the flexibility to put money on some UFA’s brains and augment his young core for next season. Speaking of which, his only expensive RFA will be Desharnais. The following year, he’ll have to choose between extending Markov, Emelin, Diaz, and an aged Gionta, though he should still have money to play with once the rest of the salary cap chaff disappears.**

So for now, it looks good. If Bergevin doesn’t eventually get Subban signed to a longterm deal or if Subban gets a calculator-melting offer sheet two summers from now, fans might look back on January 28th with mixed emotions.



*Florida and Toronto already look like teams in the draft lottery

** All of this assumes league revenues don’t vanish in the next few years and NHL GM’s end up operating with a salary cap of 12 dollars, 50 cents, and free clothing adorned with their employer’s logo.

January 8, 2013

Contract Negotiations, Vol IV: A Subban in the Hand…

by Jacob Saltiel

“If I’m this happy signing autographs, imagine the smiles for a longterm contract extension…”

Coming out of the lockout, the first article posted about the Montreal Canadiens carried the following headline: “Signing Subban Top Priority for New Canadiens GM Bergevin”. With the rest of the lineup set- barring the incredible possibility of subtracting either Gomez or Kaberle from the roster- the  PK Subban negotiation is the most important item on Bergevin’s agenda before the season starts, with the negotiation also representing an opportunity to control the future of a young, dynamic defenceman with potential to improve. This will also be Bergevin’s second major roster move with respect to his core, the first one being the Pacioretty signing.

Without relying on rumours of what Subban may have asked for and what the Habs may have offered, let’s imagine the pros and cons of the negotiation from the perspectives of an NHL player agent, the GM of the Canadiens, and a fan:


“Pernell is a #1 defencemen and should be paid like one. In fact, last year he played the minutes of a top-pairing D, at 24:18, putting him 18th for average ice time per game, and 14th overall for total minutes. On the worst team in the Eastern conference, he was still a +9, and scored as many points as Drew Doughty. Yes, the 7m+/year Drew Doughty. PK loves the city, the fans, and thrives in the Montreal market and is willing to sign long term. He’s a young, durable defenceman with the potential to score more points than he has, as evidenced by the fact that he was 7th in the NHL in shots from a defenceman with 205. His defence has also improved, and in his first two playoff runs he shut down elite players such as Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, and Alex Ovechkin. At the minutes he’s sure to play, we’d prefer to sign him up to a long-term contract- if he gets hurt then we’re left out in the cold. Marc, do right by the fans of Montreal and sign PK Subban for the 5 years, at 5.5M a year, which would be a steal. You won’t be sorry”


“Firstly, I want to say that we are extremely thankful for everything that PK has done for the team on-ice, and we look forward to having stay in Montreal for his career. Having said that, PK is still a restricted free agent, and although he’s made great progress for a 2nd year player, he still had lots of potential. Before committing to a long-term contract, we’d like to take another year to gauge what that might be. Given the salary we have committed this year, we’d prefer to wait until the offseason. Markov’s contract expires and then we can use the buy-out option to free up cap space and reward PK for the excellent season we’re certain he’ll have. Sure, we finished last in the East last year, but our problem was offence, which was 13th in the East, while our defence was actually top 5 in the conference in terms of goals allowed. We’d also like to see PK work on taking fewer penalties, as he had the most penalty minutes in the league for a defenceman at 119, many of which were minor penalties, a category he led with 47- or 10 more than the next most for a defenceman. So, let’s say 3 million to play through this season and next year we can renegotiate when PK. Look, if you’re willing to use the contract of a player such as John Carlson (3.9m/yr for 6 years), then maybe we have something…”

“Sign him, Marc! PK can only improve and he’s our best young blueliner since Chris Chelios, a pest, defensive pillar, and powerplay scorer. He can lead our team for a decade and a half and wear the ‘C’! He produces the best highlights on the team and has the best commercials. Subban and Gorges can combine with one of Beaulieu or Tinordi to become a defensive core for the next 6+ years. In fact, Subban is the team’s most exciting player and signing him to a long-term deal now can only pay off.”

These three arguments about Subban’s value to the club are not contradictory, but, ultimately, the club should sign Subban now to a long-term extension that carries through his restricted free agent and first few unrestricted free agency years.

If Subban has a breakout year over the shortened season, scoring a point a game and improving defensively, he could suddenly be worth 6 million+ a season. Even if Subban remains the exact same player, he would still be worth about 4.5m a season, simply based on his icetime and the expectation that he’ll learn to take fewer penalties under Therrien’s discipline. It’s much easier to teach a dynamic player to cut down on penalties than to develop a mediocre talent into a top-pairing defenceman.

Worse, stiffing Subban on a contract now could leave him open to an offer sheet later, or eventually pave the way for Subban to leave as a free agent, something the Habs can ill-afford after squandering McDonagh’s potential through trade. The Canadiens will never have more leverage over Subban than they do now and with an aggressive contract offer similar to the one Pacioretty received, say 6 years at 4.5m/year, it would be tough for Meehan and Subban to turn down that guaranteed money.

Given the buy-outs that are likely coming this summer and the assured fandom of Montrealers, it’s a roll of the dice that you can afford. According to Jean-Francois Chaumont of La Journale de Montreal, Bergevin was quoted as saying: “Mon intention est de signer P.K. avant le camp, […] C’est mon but depuis le premier jour de mon arrivée en poste, même si ce n’est pas ­arrivé avant la fin de la dernière ­convention. In other words, “It’s my intention to sign PK before training camp. It’s been my goal since my first day on the job, even if we couldn’t get a contract signed before the last CBA expired.”

One way or the other, Subban will be under contract this season. With the right offer, this negotiation could result in controlling Subban’s foreseeable future at a relative discount.