The value of a new PK Subban contract has been a hotly contested topic in recent weeks in the NHL and of course, in Montreal.
Let’s examine his relative value strictly from a performance point of view. At 25 years old, his career point-per-game average is 0.588 in 284 games played. In his Norris Trophy winning season (2012-13), he posted 38 points in 42 games (0.9 ppg) to tie for the lead among defensemen, and added a +12.
Those are all impressive numbers to be sure, but how do they compare with other NHL defensemen and, perhaps more importantly, how confident can we be that he can replicate them in the future?
His career point-per-game average is among the leaders for active defensemen, ahead of perennial Norris candidates like Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Duncan Keith among others. In fact, only Erik Karlsson and Mike Green have higher career averages (he’s tied with Dan Boyle). That’s pretty elite company.
According to Hockey Reference, his “Goals Created” total was a combined 30 the last two seasons, 1 behind league leaders Erik Karlsson & Shea Weber (31). That tells us how important he is to the Canadiens’ offense.
However once we start looking at advanced statistics and possession, the case for Subban being a top defenseman in the NHL falls off a little bit. This past season, he ranked 82nd among defensemen with a 49.9 Corsi For percentage according to extraskater.com, a big drop off from his Norris winning season where he ranked 7th with 56.5%. Relative to his team when he’s not on the ice however, he ranked 9th and 10th respectively the last two seasons among defensemen, underlying once again his importance to his team.
This creates an interesting situation. Does PK Subban’s value lie in his relative value as a defenseman, or in his value to his team? From the player’s perspective, it makes sense to suggest that the team would suffer greatly by losing their best player. On the other hand, the team could make the case that he is not among the game’s 2 or 3 best defensemen and thus, shouldn’t be paid as such. That gap however can be rather large, which is likely the reason we see Subban’s camp asking for 8.5 million in arbitration, and the team countering with just 5.5.
In relation to the cap ceiling of 69 million, those numbers equate to 12.31% and 7.97% respectively.
Taking into account the various salary cap ceilings at the time of their signings, here are how the top defensemen in the game today stack up:
% of cap in first year of contract
% of the current cap (69 million)
At the time the contract was signed, Brian Campbell‘s deal was the richest in history, both in dollar value and in terms of how much of the cap, then 56.7 million, the Blackhawks committed to him. Subban’s arbitration ask would nearly eclipse Campbell’s 12.6%, coming in at 12.31%.
The idea that Subban should sign for the highest dollar value of any defenseman in the league makes sense given that the cap will likely rise significantly in the coming years. He is after all one of only 4 active Norris trophy winners. What doesn’t make sense is to commit the most cap room to a player most would agree is a top 10 talent at his position, but not necessarily among the top 2 or 3.
Montreal’s offer of 5.25 makes even less sense. That would put him at 7.61%, much lower than any of the deals mentioned above.
If we can safely say that his performance the last two seasons warrant a spot among the league’s 5 best defensemen, but the numbers also suggest that he’s not among the top 2 or 3, then I think it’s safe to place Subban in the 10.5-10.75% range, placing him in the top 5 at around a 7.5 million dollar cap hit.
Now it doesn’t end there. Take into account the fact that the salary is expected to rise by as much as 5-6 million next season, and his relative value to the Montreal Canadiens, and you begin to see how that number can rise to as much as 8 on a long-term deal.
I can see a PK Subban contract getting done at 8 million over 8 years before arbitration. If they go to arbitration however, I don’t believe he’ll get more than 7.5 million on a 1 year deal.
Thanks for reading.