What’s next for the polarising defencemen?
By Noah Cain
On Monday, January 28th, the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. Subban agreed to a two-year contract worth US $5.75 million.
Subban, a restricted free-agent at the time, held out of the Habs’ first five games in hopes of being awarded a longer contract worth more money. Reportedly, he was hoping for a 5 year contract worth around US $25 million, citing the heavy minutes he logged last year on Montreal’s top defensive pairing as cause. Subban’s camp lost steam in the negotiations after the Canadiens went 4-1 without Subban in the lineup.
The contract Subban signed is similar to ones signed by Max Pacioretty and Carey Price in their restricted free-agent seasons with the Habs. Both signed long-term deals when their two-year contracts ran out.
Subban’s holdout could hardly have come at a worse time. During the lockout, the players were characterised as greedy money-grabbers. Through it all, Subban, widely recognised as one of the most loved Canadiens due to his aggressive play and charismatic personality, regularly espoused his desire to return to the ice. Well, the lockout ended, hockey returned to Montreal, and Subban got his wish.
Not so fast.
Instead of joining the team at training camp, Subban once again demanded more money. Slowly, surely, support for Subban started to slip. His Twitter page showed him gallivanting with visiting members of the Los Angeles Lakers all while the Habs got off to an unexpected strong start.
As the holdout continued and the Habs continued to win, TSN comment boxes showed negative sentiments directed at Subban increase until he re-signed on January 28th.
There is no doubt that Subban makes the Canadiens better. He has a big shot on the powerplay, a strong physical presence, and an infectious energetic style. There have been whispers that Subban is a negative influence in the dressing room (top defenseman Andrei Markov withheld comment on P.K.’s signing), but coach Michel Therrien appears well-equipped to give positive direction to Subban’s big personality.
As much as the Canadiens need Subban, Subban needs the Canadiens. Perhaps more than any other NHL player, he constructs himself as a brand. He has multiple commercials (including a big-budget motivational Nike ad), heavily promotes himself on Twitter, and worked for Sportsnet during the lockout. Montreal is one of the few markets where a hockey player can become a brand. The passion of the fans, Quebec’s love for charisma, and the amount of media attention make Montreal the perfect market for Subban.
As Subban continues to find his niche with the Canadiens, he needs to strike a balance between personal and team promotion. The Habs have a promising young team with a bright future. The Canadiens have informed rookies Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk that they’ll be staying with the team, and Price and Pacioretty are some of the league’s best young players. Subban needs to realise that what’s good for the team is good for himself. No label is better for a career than “winner.” Teams don’t win with cancerous dressing rooms.
Subban is an extremely gifted young player. If he increases his discipline, maturity, and leadership, he will become one of the league’s elite. If he doesn’t, he will be the defensive version of Jeremy Roenick: having frequent guest spots on Michael Lansberg’s Off the Record and offering his ringless hand to the media who love him for all the sound bytes over the years.