Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban finally got the long-term deal that he’s longed for.
The 25-year-old NHL All-Star, 2014 Olympic hockey gold medalist and 2013 Norris Trophy winner as the league’s top defenseman signed an eight-year, $72 million contract with the Habs Saturday, ending months of sometimes tense negotiations that included an arbitration hearing last Friday. The deal makes Subban, who was a restricted free agent, one of the highest-paid defensemen in the league and represents the biggest salary cap hit – $9 million – against the Canadiens payroll for the 2014-15 season.
“We are very pleased to have reached a long term agreement with P.K. Subban,” Montreal General Manager Marc Bergevin said in a
statement. “This agreement helps consolidate the future of our team. A key element of our group of young veterans, P.K. plays with a high level of intensity every time he steps onto the ice. Despite his young age, he carries a great deal of experience and brings contagious energy to the team. Defensemen of his level are a rare commodity in the NHL.”
In a tweet, Subban said “Thank you @canadiensmtl for making a commitment to myself and my family. Im Excited about the future! #letsgetit.”
“I think that it sends a strong message to me that they want me here and they appreciate everything I’ve done to this point and they believe in me as a player,” he added in a Saturday night conference call. “I think I’ve always believed that, but obviously in this process and coming out with this result, now everybody else understands it and can see it as well and doesn’t have to speculate about how the Montreal Canadiens feel about me.”
The contract opens a new chapter for Subban and closes the book on a productive and sometimes controversial 2013-14 season for him. He registered 10 goals and 43 assists as the only Canadiens player to appear in all 82 regular season games last season. He was tied for fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring in 2013-14.
Subban led Montreal in assists – he was fifth among NHL defenders in helpers – and led the team in power play points with 23. He was second among Canadiens players in time on ice, averaging 24:36 minutes per game. He played a whopping 33 minutes in Game Four in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers.
Subban was third on the Canadiens in penalty minutes with 81, shots on goal with 204, bodychecks with 135, and fourth in blocked shots with 125.
Though loved by Montreal fans, Subban’s gaudy numbers and electrifying style of play didn’t always translate to superstar treatment by his team or the hockey establishment. He was benched a couple of times last season by Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien in the closing minutes of games or overtime.
“You know what, I think that at some point in time, like I’ve said, just focus on what you can control and that’s just how you play,” Subban said in an interview last February on Montreal’s TSN 690 radio.“Sometimes it’s tough, you know. There’s different circumstances during the season maybe where things aren’t going your way and you can be frustrated with many different things, but all you can do and all you can control as a player is just try to go out there, play your game and do what you can. It could be tough sometimes, but you just got to remain positive and try to be as positive as you can, and that’s what you got your parents for and that’s why you got close friends. That’s where that father-son relationship with your Dad is important.”
Subban also had to sweat out whether he would be selected for Canada’s Olympic hockey team for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. In speaking on the team selection process, Mike Babcock, Team Canada’s head coach and bench boss of the Detroit Red Wings, told The Toronto Star “You don’t put people on the ice you don’t trust…you’ve got to be a trustworthy player.”
Subban was eventually named to Team Canada but he only played 11 minutes during the squad’s Gold Medal run. Though he didn’t play much, Subban didn’t sulk. He supported his teammates, worked hard in practice, and kept the team loose with his outgoing and outsized personality. He took in the Olympic experience, hauling his family (minus hockey-playing brothers Malcolm and Jordan) to Russia for the festivities.
Subban’s stock soared during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He led the team with 5 goals and 9 assists in 17 playoff games. He scored a double overtime game-winner against the Boston Bruins last May that spurred some racist tweets by a few so-called fans. He got under the skin of some Bruins players including forward Shawn Thornton, who squirted Subban in the face from the bench with a water bottle.
Subban handled the racist tweets with class, saying the incident wasn’t a reflection of the arch-rival Bruins or true Boston hockey fans.
“It’s completely unfair for anybody to point the finger at the organization or the fan base,” he said. “They have passionate fans here, great fan base and since I’ve been in the league it’s been awesome. I’ve come to Boston many times, my family has come here, and it’s been great.”