Did you hear that? That was the sound of Montreal Canadiens fans everywhere breathing a collective sigh of relief as news broke that talented defenseman P.K. Subban had finally come to terms with Marc Bergevin and the Habs Brass on a long-term deal.
The deal, signed and announced just hours before an arbitration ruling, is an 8 year, $72 million contract that effectively makes Subban the highest paid defenseman in the NHL.
Fans are elated. Of course they are. It didn’t take long for Subban to become the face of the Habs’ storied franchise, thanks to his luminous personality and on ice wonders.
Still, this is the second time negotiations have gone sour between the Canadiens and their top defenseman. In 2012, Subban missed six regular season games due to an ongoing contract dispute. In 2014, there was a stalemate between Subban’s hardnosed agent Don Meehan and Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin. Meehan wanted the max, Bergevin wanted to save at least a couple million going forward, knowing full well he would be signing Subban long term. Essentially it became a game of chicken, with the fans being the only casualty.
All season long fans wanted the gregarious Subban, a restricted free agent, re-signed. He is a Norris Trophy winner, an Olympian, an All Star and one of the best defensemen in the game. But the playoffs ended and there was no news; the draft passed and still nothing; the free agent market opened and fell into neutral; then players filed for arbitration and shockingly Subban’s name was on the list. Forward Lars Eller was also on the list but the Habs managed to come to terms before their scheduled hearing. So why not Subban?
Subban’s hearing was slated for August 1st in Toronto but pundits and fans alike seemed confident a deal could be, or should be, reached before then. It wasn’t. On the eve of that Friday meeting, rumours abounded that the two parties had come to terms, and yet no announcement was made.
The doors closed on an early morning arbitration hearing on August 1st. Fans were panicked but desperately hopeful that the Habs and Subban would come to terms within the 48 hours before the mediator’s ruling would become law.
When the parties emerged from their meeting Meehan, the bullish agent who is the main reason Subban’s $9 million cap hit is the third highest in the NHL, stated that the two parties were done negotiating and the arbitrator would decide the number. A definitive arbitration ruling would also mean the Habs only had Subban under contract for one year.
Don Meehan tells Sportsnet that there are no plans to continue negotiating a long-term deal for Subban before the arbitrator's award.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) August 1, 2014
Fans and media alike went into a tailspin. Bergevin was accused of disrespecting his star player; Subban was accused of secretly wanting to play for the Maple Leafs, despite continually stating, outright, that he wanted to remain in Montreal long term.
Then it happened. At 11am on Sunday, August 2nd, Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens finally announced that the parties has come to terms. It’s what everyone wanted and expected but the journey was tough to bear. In the end, it came down to $ and a corporate face-off. Neither party was willing to concede those final $millions, whatever they were, until the last second.
For what it’s worth, Bergevin never intended to sign Subban for under $6 million and certainly never disrespected a player who he referred to as a rare commodity:
“We are very pleased to have reached a long-term agreement with P.K. Subban,” said Bergevin. “This agreement helps consolidate the future of our team. A key element of our group of young veterans, P.K. plays with a high level of intensity every time he steps onto the ice. Despite his young age, he carries a great deal of experience and brings contagious energy to the team. Defencemen of his level are a rare commodity in the NHL.”
Bergevin just did what he had to do to try to keep the price down on a young defenseman who still has plenty to learn. Meehan may have won this round but luckily everyone’s happy, especially the fans, who can finally enjoy the rest of their summer.
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