There is therefore a well-established pattern in the Montreal organization when it comes to handling their young players, one which some feel it is presumptuous and even arrogant for Subban to feel that he should not have to go through that process. Plekanec, Price, and Pacioretty all had questions coming off their entry-level contracts, and those have surely been answered as evidenced by the long-term rewards they all received after their second deals had concluded. Are there still questions about Subbanís abilities and attitude over the long term? Some say yes, others are less concerned with them relative to their concerns about seeing a legitimate star (on and off the ice) potentially slip through Montrealís fingers. Fans with long memories point to Chris Chelios, another highly talented young man whose reputation got him traded out of Montreal before he reached the peak of his talents. For P.K. to buck the trend of the second contract in Montreal would be a break with history, and the Canadiens are not 100% sold that, regardless of the appeal of Subban, he is such a special case that he should receive special treatment relative to his peers.
Who Are Subbanís Peers?
Establishing comparables is a difficult job, which is why it largely rests in the hands of supremely talented agents who negotiate on behalf of the players. Don Meehan is one of the best in the business, if not the best. He has been a representative of the top stars of the game for decades now, and deserves every bit of the reputation he has earned for being a skilled and savvy negotiator who always gets his star clients top dollars. Throughout this lengthy process with Subban, he has remained tight-lipped and careful not to divulge much, if any, information to the public about his objectives. All we truly know is that Subban wants a long-term deal with the Canadiens, and that he wants to be paid commensurate with what he brings to the team.
Letís look at the numbers for Subban in his young career. While his offensive production dropped off from 14 goals in 2010-11 to just 7 last season, he remained a vital part of the teamís power play and penalty-killing units, logging an average of over 24 minutes of ice time per game, highest among all Canadiens. He was on the top pairing with Josh Gorges, which meant that Subban lined up against the other teamís top offensive threats. On a disastrous season for the Canadiens, Subban emerged as a +9, which was an improvement of 17 goals for from the previous season. It is rare to see that happen on a team that finishes in last place and for a player who went from a mid-pairing role to a pre-eminent one on his team.
This is why it is so difficult to find comparables to Subban around the NHL. While he is not yet in the class of the likes of Shea Weber or Drew Doughty, two other top young defencemen who received long-term contracts while still in their RFA years (indeed, Doughty signed a monster contract coming off his entry-level contract and held out for a portion of last season to attain it), he is among the top young stars of the NHL. Those two other players play on their top lines, and Subban is just a couple notches below them in terms of talent and untapped potential. There are few young blueliners who have ascended to the pinnacle of their position as quickly as Subban, and that makes the search to find similar players of similar calibre difficult.