Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Six

P.K. Subban vs. the NHL’s other big-money defensemen

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There were basically three types of responses to P.K. Subban’s mammoth eight-year, $72 million extension on Saturday:

1) Those spouting “That’s way too much money” while critiquing the player and/or the deal.

2) More than a few people who believe that Subban is worth every penny.

3) Those who praised other deals as huge bargains in hindsight. (Erik Karlsson’s name came up a lot there.)

The third consideration probably brings up the most interesting – and healthiest – discussions. By receiving that ransom at 25, Subban sets a new bar for blueliners in much the same way that forwards have a new ceiling to shoot for following dual $10.5 million marks for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Ignoring the many contextual factors that went into this deal as compared to the contracts owned by his elite peers – from a rising salary cap to a new CBA – how does Subban compare to other expensive blueliners? To start things off, let’s do things the simple way by glancing at Cap Geek’s most comparable contracts at his position in 2014-15:

Name Age Length Start Expiry Salary Cap Hit Cap Pct
Subban, P.K. » 25 8 2014 2022 $9,000,000 $9,000,000 13.04%
Weber, Shea » 28 14 2012 2026 $14,000,000 $7,857,143 11.19%
Suter, Ryan » 29 13 2012 2025 $11,000,000 $7,538,462 10.74%
Letang, Kris » 27 8 2014 2022 $7,250,000 $7,250,000 10.51%
Campbell, Brian » 35 8 2008 2016 $7,142,875 $7,142,875 12.60%
Doughty, Drew » 24 8 2011 2019 $7,000,000 $7,000,000 10.89%
Phaneuf, Dion » 29 7 2014 2021 $8,000,000 $7,000,000 10.14%
Chara, Zdeno » 37 7 2011 2018 $7,000,000 $6,916,667 10.76%
Karlsson, Erik » 24 7 2012 2019 $6,500,000 $6,500,000 9.26%
Pietrangelo, Alex » 24 7 2013 2020 $5,500,000 $6,500,000 10.11%
Green, Mike » 28 3 2012 2015 $6,250,000 $6,083,333 8.67%
Seabrook, Brent » 29 5 2011 2016 $5,000,000 $5,800,000 9.02%
Burns, Brent » 29 5 2012 2017 $5,760,000 $5,760,000 8.21%
Niskanen, Matt » 27 7 2014 2021 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Enstrom, Tobias » 29 5 2013 2018 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.94%
Markov, Andrei » 35 3 2014 2017 $7,000,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Keith, Duncan » 31 13 2010 2023 $7,600,000 $5,538,462 9.32%
Myers, Tyler » 24 7 2012 2019 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
Carle, Matt » 29 6 2012 2018 $5,750,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
E.-Larsson, O. » 23 6 2013 2019 $4,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%
Wisniewski, James » 30 6 2011 2017 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%

Interesting stuff, huh?

Depending upon the person who’s framing an argument, Subban’s peers can fall more in line with Shea Weber – the most recent defenseman who experienced a bumpy ride in which arbitration was prominently involved – or someone like Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Any way you slice it, many of those deals really do look great with hindsight; one could imagine the cackles of Chicago Blackhawks fans who delight in Duncan Keith only taking up 9.32 percent of their cap or Victor Hedman’s ludicrous steal-of-a-deal at $4 million per season.

In all honesty, it’s not totally fair to Subban or the Canadiens to compare his deal with other blueliners who were in very different situations. If nothing else, the rest of the NHL should be very pleased that their blue-chip blueliners aren’t set to hit the market anytime soon, though.

Bargains and value discussions aside, where does Subban fit among the NHL’s elite? That’s a tricky question, especially since he’s received mixed treatment from those who deploy him.

Perception, reality and P.K.

As much as the numbers seem to indicate that Subban is the real deal – not just offensive numbers, but the whole picture – there’s the (probably unfair) impression that he needs to improve greatly in his own end.

Consider the fact that he was often used lightly by Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock during the 2014 Olympics. Without getting into speculation about his relationship with Habs bench boss Michel Therrien, Subban didn’t carry the toughest workload in 2013-14:

If you judge a player based on the opinions of the decision-makers, Subban falls behind some of the best of the best.

Here’s the thing, though: his numbers are pretty sterling in just about any situation, making an argument that he can handle the burden of huge expectations. Subban generated 165 points since his first full season in the NHL back in 2010-11, ranking him seventh among defensemen. The numbers only get better if you restrict them to more recent seasons. He doesn’t get enough credit for his overall work, either.

Here’s a look at how he compares to some of the league’s best via Extra Skater’s handy “compare” tools:

Player GP G P CF% CF% rel PDO ZS% ZS% rel EVTOI% PPTOI% SHTOI% QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
P.K. Subban 82 10 53 49.90% 0.051 99.8 47.40% 0.038 39.00% 80.30% 11.20% 28.80% 27.90%
Erik Karlsson 82 20 74 54.80% 0.043 99.1 55.00% 0.076 43.20% 76.00% 24.00% 29.00% 27.80%
Brian Campbell 82 7 37 52.70% 0.03 99 49.90% 0.009 42.20% 66.20% 37.50% 28.80% 27.20%
Drew Doughty 78 10 37 58.50% 0.029 100.8 54.10% -0.90% 38.90% 64.20% 42.20% 29.00% 26.90%
Alex Pietrangelo 81 8 51 54.90% 0.029 101.7 52.30% -0.50% 38.50% 50.70% 55.70% 29.50% 29.50%
Duncan Keith 79 6 61 56.60% 0.02 100.4 57.30% 0.027 37.20% 61.30% 48.40% 28.90% 28.50%
Zdeno Chara 77 17 40 55.20% 0.018 101.3 48.30% -9.10% 37.00% 55.20% 58.10% 29.90% 27.70%
Ryan Suter 82 8 43 48.60% -0.40% 102.2 54.20% 0.098 45.60% 71.50% 44.90% 29.30% 29.10%
Shea Weber 79 23 56 48.00% -0.70% 100.1 44.60% -6.60% 41.00% 63.10% 54.10% 29.60% 29.10%
Kris Letang 37 11 22 48.80% -1.50% 97.3 53.10% 0.039 36.30% 71.70% 41.00% 28.90% 28.00%
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 80 15 44 49.20% -1.80% 100.5 48.40% -4.60% 37.10% 74.40% 54.00% 29.80% 27.60%
Dion Phaneuf 80 8 31 40.80% -2.80% 103.1 37.20% -4.90% 34.10% 62.50% 52.40% 30.10% 29.10%

(Note: it’s OK if your eyes are glazing over at some of those categories.)

To generalize, Subban stacks up nicely in most regards … although his lack of PK work (pause for giggles) is indeed glaring.

With that in mind, the most interesting question might shift from “Where does Subban rank?” to “Will Therrien use his best defenseman in a way that gives his team the best chance to succeed?” Whatever happens, it won’t be easy for Subban to live up to these expectations, yet the Canadiens could very well be happy that they made this huge investment … if they play their cards right.

San Jose Sharks’ defense looks very promising

SAN JOSE, CA - JANUARY 03:  Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues and Brent Burns #88 and Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 of the San Jose Sharks go for the puck at SAP Center on January 3, 2015 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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In the long term, there are some questions about the San Jose Sharks’ defense.

For one thing, Brent Burns is due what could be a raise almost as big as his Burt’s Bees beard.

What’s even more troubling is, like the Sharks’ forwards, the defense’s upper ranks might see Father Time nipping at their heels. Burns is 31, Paul Martin is 35 and three defensemen are 29 in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and newly signed blueliner David Schlemko.

This isn’t to say that the Sharks will age as rapidly as Melisandre, but that group prompts more questions about how long San Jose’s window might be hope.

Quite a promising present

So, maybe it won’t be a strength forever … but wow, this group sure looks promising on paper heading into next season.

Burns gets the most attention thanks to his booming shot, strong all-around skills and bizarre presence, yet Team Canada isn’t oblivious to Vlasic’s subtler brilliance. Paul Martin might be slipping a bit, but he’s still a useful player.

The signing of Schlemko really ties the room together, though.

The point isn’t that Schlemko is a star or better than the likes of Jay Bouwmeester. The very different nature of their roles makes a comparison a little risky.

Instead, it argues that Schlemko is the sort of supporting cast player who can push the Sharks closer to having a quality defenseman on the ice during every shift.

Beyond those four blueliners, the Sharks have some interesting options. Braun enjoyed some nice playoff moments. Brenden Dillon has his flaws, but perhaps he’d flourish if used in more protected situations.

With Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo among those waiting in the wings, it’s not as though the Sharks are totally devoid of young talent on defense.

In an age where it almost feels like teams would give up vital organs for difference-makers on defense, San Jose’s group looks primed to rank among the elite. After struggling when the likes of Roman Polak were caught in bad situations, the Sharks have a great chance to trot out a remarkably balanced group in 2016-17.

Let’s argue about EA Sports’ NHL 17 player ratings

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via EA Sports
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EA Sports released top player rankings for NHL 17 about a week ago, but it isn’t too late to needlessly argue about them.

The top 50 overall ratings is probably the best place to start, but EA also shared top 10 lists for centers, defensemen, goalies, left wings and right wings.

Now, it’s important not to take this stuff too seriously. There are plenty of things to cool down any diehards who feel like Their Guy was disrespected, but do note that ratings sometimes get tweaked.

Still, there are some fun observations and debates that can come from pouring through these rankings, especially if you’re … well, bored.

Shea Weber vs. P.K. Subban

Did Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin chime in on the debate? /Scratches chin

Weber came in with a blazing 94 rating:

 

Weber wins the digital battle with Subban, who lags behind as a 91. To the naked eye, EA seems to disagree with the analytics-based argument that Subban is the better all-around player than Weber at this juncture:

Here’s the thing, though: if you break both down rating by rating, each guy looks pretty great in NHL 17. Perhaps the real debate comes down to whether Weber really is that great defensively or not.

Then again, maybe EA just has a blind spot for Nashville Predators past and/or present? Pekka Rinne‘s high rating is sure to ruffle some feathers:

91rinneea

To give you some context, that 91 rating ties Rinne with Cory Schneider and places him ahead of the likes of Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Tuukka Rask.

Some other debate-starters

Need some other fun ones to bicker about? Sure you do:

***

Again, take it easy with this stuff. None of these choices are “Mike Richards being higher-rated than Anze Kopitar” bad.

You can have a lot of fun batting around different observations, as these player rankings often provide an interesting window into the way the hockey world sees things.

And, hey, at least Dustin Byfuglien‘s getting some much-deserved recognition.

NHL says it isn’t bothered by Coyotes’ salary cap methods

PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 02:  Dave Bolland #36 of the Chicago Blackhawks and Chris Pronger #20 of the Philadelphia Flyers skate after the loose puck in Game Three of the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Wachovia Center on June 2, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Arizona Coyotes GM John Chayka is deftly playing the system when it comes to the salary cap to the point that some might accuse him of exploiting loopholes.

If the NHL bristles as such tactics, they’re at least not showing it in public.

In taking on the absolutely dead money of Chris Pronger and Pavel Datsyuk along with the possibly dead money of Dave Bolland, the Coyotes are getting to the cap floor while saving money in the actual cash they’re dishing out.

The Score’s Ian MacLaren succinctly explains the savings they’re enjoying thanks to these clever trades:

That’s how the league is viewing Arizona taking on the salaries of Chris Pronger, Pavel Datsyuk and Dave Bolland. The cap hits amount to almost $18 million but result in less than $2 million in actual salary paid out by the club, while simultaneously allowing it to reach the cap floor.

Honestly, it’s difficult to shake the image of Gary Bettman & Co. bristling at the tactics of a franchise they’ve defended year after year amid myriad arena issues.

Today’s Slapshot’s Craig Morgan caught up with Bill Daly, whose overall message is that the league is OK with what Arizona is doing.

“I would say that it’s a matter that we monitor, like all other areas of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement), and if we believe it starts to be abused in a way that is inconsistent with how the system is designed to work, at that point, we would try to correct it in collective bargaining with the union,” Daly said. “I would say we aren’t at that point on this issue — we do not view it as the loophole that‎ some describe it as.”

One key point from Daly is that he doesn’t view Bolland’s case as the same as that of Pronger or Datsyuk. The critical distinction is that Bolland at least hopes to become healthy enough to play again.

(Chakya’s update wasn’t particularly optimistic in that regard, but a return isn’t totally inconceivable since Bolland is just 30.)

Best of both worlds for Coyotes

Again, the Coyotes are really reaping the benefits of this gameplan. Not only are they saving real dollars by absorbing other teams’ dead money, they’re using those trades to acquire promising assets like Jakob Chychrun and Lawson Crouse.

These are the sort of moves that make the team look bright today and possibly terrifying for opponents in the future, even if the 2016-17 product may be a little hit-or-miss.

Time may tell how the NHL truly feels

To some extent, we probably won’t know how the NHL truly feels about this situation until the next CBA eventually gets hashed out.

Then again, the league did make a big stink about cap circumvention during the memorable days of Ilya Kovalchuk’s contract negotiations, so perhaps such maneuvering really doesn’t bother the NHL?

Maybe, but you’re free to picture Bettman grumbling about Chayka’s moves either way.

(H/T to the Score.)

Alex Ovechkin tweets about tying the knot with Nastya Shubskaya

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via Alex Ovechkin's Twitter page
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Alex Ovechkin shared the news via his official Twitter feed that he married Nastya Shubskaya.

His message includes a caption that translates to “This is happiness,” according to NHL.com.

Washington Capitals blog Russian Machine Never Breaks indicated that the two got married during a small, private ceremony, so it might have actually happened a week or so ago.

Here’s the Ovechkin tweet from Sunday:

This continues a run of big news for Capitals players, with a life-changing event for Ovechkin’s partner-in-crime Nicklas Backstrom as well:

There were some fun jokes on Twitter about the happy news, with this one possibly taking the cake:

This summer figures to be a busy one from a hockey standpoint for Ovie, as he’s been part of various activities and will represent Russia at the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

In case you’re wondering, Ovechkin will soon turn 31.