After almost 120 days of a lockout, the NHL has been back in action for a full week. Unfortunately, not everybody is back on the ice. The free agency market and CBA uncertainty left a few skilled RFAs unsigned through the lockout. While Michael Del Zotto signed in time to get into each of the Rangers' games this season, Jamie Benn's more-recent signing means he probably won't play for the Stars until next week.
Then there's PK Subban*.
He's not signed and apparently not close to being signed. The kind of talk that's been leaking has been reminiscent of what the NHL and NHLPA were saying to each other via the press in November. Bob McKenzie thinks this situation will lead to a trade. Meanwhile, RDN's Renaud Lavoie offers some insight as to why they're apart:
No progress in talks for PK Subban contract. Offer from MTL is still the same since May: 2,3 million dollars this season and 2,9 in 2013-14.— Renaud Lavoie (@RenLavoieRDS) January 26, 2013
Apparently, Subban wants Jamie Benn money (5 years, $5.25M per year) while the Habs are offering Michael Del Zotto cash (2 years, $5.1M).
Habs Eyes on the Prize gives a great rundown as to why PK Subban is worth top-tier defenseman money. Give it a full read, but here's the quick rundown:
Subban faced the twelfth toughest on ice competition and started in his defensive zone for faceoffs more than most top pairing defensemen do as well. Despite this, he pushed the play up the ice quite well, with pretty much even splits on shots directed towards the goal.
There's a bit of wiggle room to discuss what AAV would be reasonable for Subban, but the generalized range puts him in a spot where offer sheet compensation would either give the Canadiens a 1st and 3rd round pick in the draft or a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd if they elected not to match.
The Red Wings would be dumb to not want PK Subban if he were attainable, but the Canadiens would be dumb to lose him. So what to do?
A trade is possible and the most-likely avenue to actually getting him on the team, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how Montreal doesn't have a new GM by the draft if the Habs trade Subban and get anything less than a Nash's ransom for him. It would be lovely if the Habs would give up Subban for everybody you hate and a few people you don't care about, but Montreal is going to want real value and they're probably going to demand a heavy price.
Option 2 is to throw an offer sheet Subban's way. As long as the offer sheet doesn't exceed $6,728,781 for AAV, you're not giving up the dreaded four 1st round picks. Montreal has limited cap space both this season and next. It's entirely possible that a team can throw an offer at Subban that the Habs wouldn't actually match and which wouldn't overpay Subban.
What's more is that Montreal isn't a division rival, so the worry about signing a rival's best defenseman to a long contract for them isn't there like it was when Philadelphia threw their own nothing-ventured-nothing-gained offer at Shea Weber.
I have a decent suspicion that Montreal is lowballing Subban in the hopes that either nobody throws an offer sheet his way so he'll lower his asking price or somebody throws a reasonable one so they can match it and can tell their fans that it's not their fault he's paid so much. Either way, that's a low-risk proposition for a Western Conference team in need of a defenseman. What do you think?
*(and Ryan O'Reilly, but that's not going to happen)