Great news for Canadiens fans: P.K. Subban files for arbitration

Ken Campbell
PK Subban

The Montreal Canadiens and star defenseman P.K. Subban will live in contractual harmony for at least one more season, probably two. That was guaranteed when Subban filed for salary arbitration before the Saturday deadline.

And while the league has long been opposed to the arbitration process, this is not necessarily a bad thing for either Subban or the Canadiens on a couple of fronts. 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.

With Subban having filed, the Canadiens have the option of selecting a one- or two-year award. It’s difficult to fathom they would not take the two-year deal, one that would take Subban to his first crack at unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2016. It would also give the Canadiens two years to work on getting Subban under a long-term deal and offer him an extension as early as next summer.

And if they want to avoid the often confrontational arbitration process altogether, the two sides have from now until the ruling comes down later this summer to hammer out a contract, either a two-year deal that takes him to unrestricted free agency or a long-term deal that will keep him in Montreal for up to another eight years.

But the bottom line is that Subban will be on the ice for the Canadiens without any contract hassles, probably for the next two seasons.

It won’t be difficult to figure out how much Subban will be seeking in arbitration. His comparables statistically and in terms of career development are players such as Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Doughty earns $7 million a year, Karlsson and Pietrangelo $6.5 million each and Ekman-Larsson $5.5 million. So anywhere north of $6 million would be a reasonable assumption.

The Canadiens will likely come in lower, but they won’t want to lowball Subban too much. Because the best thing about arbitration is it forces both sides to submit reasonable demands. And if those demands aren’t reasonable, then reasonable demands will be forced upon them.

The Canadiens will have to be wary of how an arbitration hearing might affect future negotiations with Subban. The process is very confrontational and the objective for a team in the process is to devalue the player. That can often create hard feelings that sometimes are not forgotten.

What should also be remembered is that the majority of arbitration cases actually don’t end up getting to a ruling. Because both sides face uncertainty with the decision, the process itself is often enough motivation for both sides to come up with a deal and that will likely be the case here. The only thing that remains is whether it will be a short- or long-term contract.

Some other players who have filed include Chris Kreider, Mats Zuccarello and Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers, Nick Spaling of the Pittsburgh Penguins and James Reimer and Cody Franson of the Toronto Maple Leafs.