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It was a surprisingly busy Saturday of hockey news, particularly considering that it was the August long weekend.
Obviously we'll start with P.K. Subban's $72-million, eight-year settlement with the Montreal Canadiens - a landmark long-term deal that will (artificially) result in Subban having the third highest salary cap-hit in the league next season (Patick Kane and Jonathan Toews' extensions don't kick in until 2015-16).
First of all, it's not often that a player of Subban's stature and quality goes to arbitration. The two cases in recent history that I can think of are Roberto Luongo with the Florida Panthers, and Shea Weber with the Nashville Predators. In the former case Luongo was dealt (for cents on the dollar, after years of speculation... Wait that sounds familiar), and in the latter case Weber was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers to a toxic offer-sheet that stretched the Predators' books.
One can make the argument that this particular negotiation shouldn't have seen the inside of a salary arbitration hearing, and that argument would be compelling. Nonetheless, Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens deserve credit for pulling this back from the ledge and locking a cornerstone piece down for eight-years. Considering the history, that type of reversal is nearly unprecedented.
On the other hand, how much credit do you give a guy if he stops shooting himself on the foot, though?
Looking at this outcome, which is better for Montreal than the alternative, it's still really clear that the club should've locked up Subban to a Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Erik Karlsson-type contract two-years ago. When you consider where Montreal is at - especially in terms of the age of their core pieces - this is a club whose best years are in front of them.
Sure, players like Rene Bourque will come off the books and help free up space for the likes of Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk (both RFAs next season), but man, the Canadiens could've likely had Subban through 2018-19 or 2019-20 for $6-$6.5 million in January 2013. Some believe that Bergevin's tough stance with Subban will help set "a precedent" that'll keep the price on Group 2 players like Galchenyuk and Gallagher down over the next few years, but I doubt this saga convinced anyone in the industry that the bridge deal makes sense for a cornerstone piece...
Good take on this from my pal Rhys J if you're interested in reading further.
Subban has the third highest cap-hit in the NHL next season, but all of Sidney Crosby, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber would have a higher AAV were it not for the now-illlegal back-diving structures of their respective contracts. So it's not really fair to do the "OMG Subban is paid more than Crosby" thing, because it's just not really true.
If you count the first eight years of Crosby's, Parise's, Suter's and Weber's deals, then throw in Ovechkin and Malkin, and Toews' and Kane's extentsions next year - really Subban is a season away from being paid like a fringe top-10 NHL player. Personally, I think that's about right.
I haven't seen it reported yet, but I'd be very curious to hear more about how the tenor and tamber of negotiations between Subban and the Candiens changed on Saturday. How much did what transpired at arbitration impact Montreal's offer? I'd bet it was significant.
The breakdown of Subban's contract is pretty interesting, particularly because the Canadiens superstar will be paid only $14 million over the next two seasons (his final two pre-UFA seasons). In recent years no superstar defender - be it Pietrangelo, Karlsson, Subban or Doughty - has managed to crack $7 million for their arb. eligible RFA seasons; so I have to think Shea Weber's $7.5 million arbitration award record might be safe for at least a few more years.
The final tally: 22 of 23 scheduled salary arbitration hearings for the summer of 2013 were avoided entirely, one of 23 actually occurred, but that case was settled prior to the arbitrator rendering their judgement on the matter.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed goaltender Ben Bishop for two-years, and very nearly $12 million ($11.9 million). That'll give the Lightning goaltender, who was a first time starter last season, a salary-cap hit verging on $6 million per, the eighth highest cap-hit for any goaltender in the NHL.
Bishop's deal, rather appropriately, pushes Marc-Andre Fleury's contract to the 16th highest cap-hit among NHL goaltenders, which is oddly appropriate. He's now officially paid like a just below average starting netminder.
Bishop is coming off of (and still recovering from) injury, but realistically, this deal is a pretty decent bet - especially considering how inept Lightning goaltending has been over the past five years. Over the past five seasons, Bishop's even-strength save percentage is actually slightly higher than Maple Leaf netminder Jonathan Bernier (who has played just 500 more minutes) and I don't think anyone would bat an eyelash at a $6 million AAV for Bernier after what he accomplished last season...
The other thing I like about this deal for the Lightning: limited term. That's what really kills teams with contracts for goaltenders (this is basically the same reason I don't totally hate the Ryan Miller contract for the Vancouver Canucks).
The Anaheim Ducks - reigning Pacific Division champions - signed heavy-weight depth scoring winger (?) Patrick Maroon to a three-year contract extension worth $6 million on Saturday. Though he saw limited burn, Maroon's scoring efficiency last season was absurd, as the 230-pound winger finished in the top-20 among all NHL forwards in points per sixty minutes of even-strength ice-time (just behind Phil Kessel).
His role and his line-mates tell part of the story here, as Maroon spent much of his time playing either on a depth scoring line alongside Mathieu Perreault, or riding shotgun with the Ryan Getlzaf-Corey Perry line at even-strength, scoring 11 goals and managing 29 total points. The bounces are part of this spike in production too, as Maroon's on-ice even-strength shooting percentage was inflated (above 11%), so really, it's very likely that he hit a high-watermark in terms of point production last season.
Even so, all Maroon has to do is fight 10 times a year and contribute some depth offense for this to be an excellent deal. It's obvious by now - based on his impressive AHL production, and his utility at evens and at 5-on-4 in the NHL - that Maroon is, at worst, an elite fourth-line forward. An enforcer with some serious offensive pop.
The Ducks also signed 2014 10th overall pick Nick Ritchie to an entry-level contract. With all of the forward depth in Anaheim, Ritchie would probably have to beat out the likes of Dany Heatley, Emerson Etem, and Rikard Rakell to make the club this upcoming season. Never say never, I guess, but most likely Ritchie will be back in Peterborough this fall.
On Friday, the Winnipeg Jets signed ex-Colorado Avalanche forward T.J. Galiardi, who was non-tendered by the Calgary Flames in June, to a one-year, two-way deal worth just $750K at the NHL level. Really like this bargain for a club, though I'd like it better if that same club wasn't wasting a bunch of money on a player like Chris Thorburn.
Even so, Galiardi is modestly better than your average fourth-line piece, and as a 10th forward on a no-risk contract, will provide the Jets with solid marginal value.
Ex-Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle, who was recently let go in Toronto by Brendan Shanahan, is now reportedly a leading candidate to replace Shanahan as the NHL's discipline czar.
The Department of Player Safety under Shanahan was occassionally feckless and inconsistent, but that's to be expected, the head of DoPS is probably the worst job in hockey. Still, when you consider the way nothing ever leaked out of Shanahan's department, or the massive improvement in communication that resulted from the "Shanaban videos" - objectively, one would have to say that he did an excellent job.