The National Hockey League lockout reinforced the importance of deadlines in resolving disputes, but deadlines don't seem to have any effect on the P.K. Subban contract negotiations.
The Canadiens and Subban failed to get a deal done before the lockout began on Sept. 15. When the lockout ended, general manager Marc Bergevin said his priority was to get Subban's signature on a contract before the start of training camp, but that didn't happen.
A third deadline will pass Saturday when the Canadiens open the regular season against the Toronto Maple Leafs. While I entertained a fantasy in which Subban rappels from the rafters of the Bell Centre during the player introductions, the reality is that there are no active negotiations and Subban will be watching the game from his home in Toronto.
The contact dispute enters a new phase with the season opener and the early season results will have a bearing on the talks. Tomas Kaberle has moved into the top four on defence and if he can do the job and the Canadiens win a few games, Bergevin has bought some time and the pressure will be on Subban.
If the Canadiens stumble out of the gate, Subban is the winner and there will be pressure on the Canadiens to get a deal done. It's one thing for a bunch of younger fans who didn't pay for their tickets to Friday's scrimmage at the Bell Centre to chant: "We want P.K.!" It will be another matter if the high rollers who buy season tickets take up Subban's cause.
There are some guiding principles that both sides should acknowledge when the talks resume.
Subban and veteran agent Don Meehan should realize the player has little bargaining power. It might not be fair, but players coming out of entry-level contracts are usually asked to sign bridge contracts, which are a stepping stone to the big money. That was the path Carey Price and Max Pacioretty had to follow.
Subban could argue that he has proved more than Price or Pacioretty at a similar stage in their development, and he has a point. Subban was the team's best defenceman and, while the front office and coaching staff have been reserved in their praise of the youngster, he led all skaters in ice time. But Subban should also recognize the money will be there down the line and that a prolonged absence could damage his burgeoning career as a pitchman for Hyundai and Nike.
Subban contract dispute enters a new phase
Montreal Gazette | Jan 19