Funny how earlier this week I was listening to a Montreal French radio show called ”Post mortem of the PK Subban episode” (kind of). It made me realize how big of a story it has been here in Quebec during the last month. It is a lot of money for a player who has not made unanimity last season with his play but he did elevate his game in the playoffs with the Canadiens almost reaching the Stanley Cup FInals for the first time since 1993. The fans are happy of course. The local press has been trying to stir controversy over the amount of $$$ given to him and the fact that the arbitration never really took place. This is the type of story that was unknown in Montreal until this year. No doubt the biggest contract negotiations the franchise ever dealt with and the highest amount of money too. This article is my post mortem as well although there is nothing deadly about this episode.
During the negotiations prior to August 1st, the day he was set to go in arbitration, Subban was seen hanging out at the Canadian Open golf tournament to watch PGA players in action. When he met reporters he was saying things like ”Montreal is a great place to play” and, since he was born and raised in Toronto, ”I always wondered how it would feel to play for the Leafs”. As much as he was staying away from his agent Don Meehan and Habs GM Marc Bergevin during the talks, Subban was behaving like a pro with the media, something he had not done two years ago when he accepted to have less money for a two-year agreement. Never in the last months has he mentioned that he wanted to stay and play in Montreal. Maybe that’s how he felt then and feels now but he never said it. Meehan probably reinforced that. On the morning of August 1st when both parties still could not come to an agreement, Meehan apparently told a reporter that ”they” would meet again next December which indicated that they were far apart from an agreement. With Subban going in arbitration that same day, the scenario was clear for the fans and for the Montreal Canadiens as well: The Norris trophy winner/star defenseman would not stay in Montreal very much longer. I heard that Bergevin wanted goaltender Carey Price to remain the highest-paid player in the team. Also, Bergevin might have compared Subban to Drew Doughty and the numbers did not match. Bergevin was apparently looking for a 6.5M-7M$ on a shorter term. In the end team owner Geoff Molson interfered before the arbitration to make the 72M$/8-year deal happen. He understood there was no way he could lose a franchise player like Subban and best of all he demonstrated that the organization wanted Subban to be part of its future. The local press was wondering if Marc Bergevin was upset. Who cares? As if Molson is the first owner to interfere in order to keep or reject a player. It would have been a public relations disaster with the fans had Subban gone in arbitration with all the feelings that go along with it. It is not sure yet if the failed negotiations will leave scars or not between the management and Subban but one way or the other he is here to stay. He and Carey Price – the Olympians – are the face of this franchise and its future too should the Montreal Canadiens get the chance to play again for a 25th Stanley Cup. It’s a good move by Molson as he gambled on the fact that Subban will most likely develop into a great all-around defenseman and leader of his team in a near future. Gambling is the right term here because let’s not forget that PK barely played at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. Let’s not forget also that Michel Therrien kept the star defenseman on the bench on a few occasions due to selfish and dangerous plays or for being too emotional. Once Subban will gain his full maturity this will be history. This leads us to the question of the captaincy in Montreal with Brian Gionta gone.
So far three names have come up as candidates to become captain of the Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty and PK Subban. The fans liked Josh Gorges. He would have been a good candidate but he is no longer with the team. I would like to think that Tomas Plekanec would be considered too. Defenseman Francis Bouillon surprisingly and clearly said to reporters this week that Subban and Pacioretty were not mature enough yet to be appointed captain and that ”you don’t want to have to have a captain for a short time” referring to Markov no doubt. Bouillon might not be back with the Canadiens so we will excuse him for that declaration although he is probably right in my opinion. Head coach Michel Therrien held his golf tournament this week (P.K. and the team was there) and he told the reporters it is a possibility that the Canadiens have no captain entering the season in October. Maybe four players will wear the ”A” as it was seen before with a few teams. Marc Bergevin did not comment on the subject so far.
I definitely believe that PK Subban will be able to handle the pressure following that contract and that he will make the Montreal Canadiens a better team. If not then he will find out that Montreal is not such a nice place to play after all.