Pros and cons of Subban filing for arbitration

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Once again, it seems like the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban are having at least a bit of trouble hashing out a new contract, with the latest development being that the star blueliner filed for salary arbitration on Saturday.

For some, that might be cause for heightened blood pressure if not the sounding of various alarms. The Hockey News’ Ken Campbell lays out a few reasons why this doesn’t have to be such a bad thing, though.

First, it is certain Subban will not be embroiled in a contract dispute with the Canadiens and will be in training camp the day it opens in September. Second, it protects the Canadiens from having another team submit an offer sheet on Subban. And finally, if it goes all the way to arbitration, it ensures that Subban will be neither overpaid nor underpaid.

If – and it’s a big if – Subban’s case actually makes it to a hearing (which will take place sometime between July 20 and August 4), the two sides would hammer out either a one or two-year deal.

The interesting part about a two-year deal is that it would cover the final two seasons of Subban’s restricted free agent status. He’s 25 right now and will get his first chance of being UFA-eligible in the summer of 2016.

Settling for a two-year deal would be a short-term win, yet it could very well prove costly in the future.

Peak years, peak prices

By just about any measure, Subban is distinguishing himself as one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and he’s really hitting the meat of his prime years right now.

While his Norris Trophy-winning 2012-13 season likely represents his best work so far, Subban set career-highs in games played, time on ice, assists (43) and points (53) last season. He already has 43 postseason games under his belt, with this past playoff run drawing the most attention (though, honestly, his numbers look good in every postseason so far).

At his age, he’s in that prime area of peak athleticism and increasing understanding of the game. It’s not out of the question for Subban to grab another Norris Trophy between now and the 2016 offseason, and even if that fails, for him to lock up a couple All-Star nods (remember those?) and strong playoff performances to drive up his value that much more.

source: Getty Images
Credit: Getty Images

When you add a salary cap ceiling likely to climb – slowly or not – the price for a player like Subban could be that much higher in 2016. That’s especially true if the Habs go through the often-awkward process of explaining why he’s not worth as much as he believes in salary arbitration. In a league where teams often get “hometown discounts” with players they develop, there’s a tight rope to walk between being tough negotiators and estranging your most important assets.

Besides, big extensions for players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane could only raise the ceiling for other stars, even if they play different positions.

Walking a tricky line

The Canadiens can breathe a sigh of relief that Subban won’t receive any challenging offer sheets this summer, and maybe none at all assuming that a two-year deal is reached.

Still, Montreal GM Marc Bergevin might be wise to strike up a lengthier extension (thus avoiding arbitration and/or shorter contracts) to eat up a few UFA years rather than risking the future for an easier short-term pact.

They effectively “won” a nerve-wracking game of contract chicken by signing Subban to a two-year, $5.75 million deal in the early moments of the 2012-13 season, but at some point, the leverage will lean Subban’s way instead. It might be smarter to foster some goodwill now with a longer contract (and also put off a potentially mammoth deal that could come if Montreal goes the “bridge deal” route once again).

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What kind of deal would you try to strike up with Subban if you were in Bergevin’s shoes? Would you let it get to arbitration? It’s not an easy situation, yet at least Canadiens fans know that the star will likely remain in Montreal for at least the next season or two.

No Bieksa for Anaheim tonight, but Vatanen could return

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The Ducks will be without their most veteran skater on Friday as they look to even up their series with Edmonton.

Kevin Bieksa, who exited Game 1 with a lower-body injury following a collision with fellow d-man Shea Theodore, has been ruled out for tonight’s Game 2. It marks the first tilt the 35-year-old will miss this postseason.

Bieksa was enjoying a pretty good playoff prior to getting hurt. He racked up four assists in five games, while averaging just under 17 minutes per night. Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle is holding out hope Bieksa could return later in the series.

While this is a loss for the Ducks, it goes a long way in illustrating how much defensive depth they have.

While Carlyle wouldn’t confirm, all signs point to Sami Vatanen drawing in for Bieksa. Vatanen has been out since Game 1 of the Calgary series with an upper-body injury, but has resumed practicing and sounds like he’s ready to go.

“It’s always nice when a player is closer to coming back and you can potentially put them back in the lineup,” Carlyle said of Vatanen.

Anaheim dressed a blueline of Bieksa, Theodore, Cam Fowler, Josh Manson, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour in Wednesday’s 5-3 defeat. If Vatanen can’t draw in for Bieksa, the club still has Korbinian Holzer in reserve.

 

 

Ducks say they’ve allowed Draisaitl too much freedom, too much fun

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Given the nicknames bestowed on Leon Drasaitl recently — the German Gretzky, Certified Duck Killer — it’s safe to assume the big Oilers forward is having a pretty good time.

That’s something Anaheim wants to put to an end, starting tonight.

“He’s a power forward and we’re allowing him too much freedom. He’s having too much fun,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle told the Journal, after Drasaitl went off for four points in Wednesday’s series-opening win.  “I don’t know how I can put it any simpler.”

The 21-year-old has made a habit of tormenting Anaheim this season. He has goals in five of seven career games at the Honda Center and, in his last 11 tilts versus the Ducks, has racked up an whopping 17 points.

Coming into this second round series, most of the focus was on how Carlyle and company would shut down Connor McDavid.

But now it appears they have another matchup issue on their hands.

Carlyle’s most logical choice is to put out the Ryan Kesler line against McDavid, given Kesler’s stout defensive play and ability to shut down opposing centers. But in terms of straight matching, that puts plenty of responsibility on Kesler’s wingers — especially Andrew Cogliano — to deal with Draisaitl. He has good size (6-foot-1, 216 pounds) and has been bolstered by McDavid’s playmaking ability.

As such, there’s a fascinating game-within-a-game to watch this evening. Carlyle has the benefit of last change. The forward matchups will be worth monitoring, but so will the defense — veteran blueliner Kevin Bieksa is doubtful after exiting Game 1 with a lower-body injury, but Sami Vatanen could return after sitting out since Game 1 of the Calgary series.

 

 

Canucks could really use Patrick or Hischier

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The Vancouver Canucks are hoping for better luck in tomorrow’s draft lottery. If they receive it, they may get a player who can step right into their lineup, and stay there for years to come.

The top two picks in the 2017 draft are expected to be centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

It remains to be seen who will go first overall. Patrick was the consensus pick for a while, but Hischier started to gain ground with an impressive showing for Switzerland at the World Juniors.

“I think the top two players in this draft have the potential to maybe step in and play next year and be productive players at the NHL level,” said Canucks GM Jim Benning. “But I think the next three players, whether you’re looking at a play-making center, or potentially a power-play defenseman, there’s good choices there too.”

Gabe Vilardi, Casey Mittelstadt, and Cody Glass are centers the Canucks could select if they fall out of the top two. Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen, and Timothy Liljegren are options on defense.

But getting Patrick or Hischier would be a huge win for a team that will soon have to replace Henrik Sedin, who turns 37 in September.

Benning says Patrick offers a combination of size (6-3, 198), skill and hockey sense, with “no real weakness in his game.”

As for Hischier, it’s his speed that really stands out.

“He’s built for today’s game,” said Benning. “His speed going through the neutral zone is fun to watch.”

The Canucks have the second-best odds to win the draft lottery. The furthest they can fall is to fifth.

Last year, Vancouver fell two spots from third to fifth, with Winnipeg and Columbus moving up. The Canucks drafted Finnish defenseman Olli Juolevi with their selection.

Draft lottery odds

Colorado Avalanche 18.0%
Vancouver Canucks 12.1%
Vegas Golden Knights* 10.3%
Arizona Coyotes 10.3%
New Jersey Devils 8.5%
Buffalo Sabres 7.6%
Detroit Red Wings 6.7%
Dallas Stars 5.8%
Florida Panthers 5.4%
Los Angeles Kings 4.5%
Carolina Hurricanes 3.2%
Winnipeg Jets 2.7%
Philadelphia Flyers 2.2%
Tampa Bay Lightning 1.8%

Paajarvi out, Barbashev in as Blues look for ‘physical element’

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After losing Game 1 — and with it, home ice advantage — of their series against Nashville, the Blues are making a lineup change for Friday’s Game 2.

Ivan Barbashev, who’s been a healthy scratch the last three games, will draw in, replacing Magnus Paajarvi. Paajarvi sits despite being a fairly productive player recently, notching a goal and three points in his last five games.

This, of course, includes the game-winning, series-clinching OT goal against Minnesota on Saturday:

“We like to give players a chance to respond and a chance to get back in there when they’re coming out of the lineup,” Blues head coach Mike Yeo said, per NHL.com. “We saw what that did for (Jori Lehtera). It’s in no way anything against Magnus. We’re very grateful and appreciative of what he’s done and what he can do for us, but ‘Barby’ has been a good player for us for a long time, too.

“Having him in the lineup, he’ll be energized and bring a physical element… When he gets the puck of the offensive zone, he has a chance to create something. We’ll see how he does tonight.”

The hope is that Barbashev can rediscover some of the form shown during the regular season. The Russian rookie made an impact, scoring five goals and 12 points in 30 games.