P.K. Subban signed a fresh contract with the Montreal Canadiens this past weekend that will total $72 million over the next eight seasons. While this probably should have never gotten to arbitration, at the end of the day, the Habs signed a cornerstone of their franchise to a deal that will keep him around until 2022. The contract gives him the third-highest cap hit per season behind Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin. Yes, he’s carrying a bigger cap hit than Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, and Ryan Getzlaf. The fact that he does is completely irrelevant; those contracts were all signed before the $5.2-billion broadcasting deal between the NHL and Rogers broadcasting. If Crosby were to hit the open market now, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say he could command in the neighborhood of $12-$15-million.
That deal from Rogers, along with Subban’s on-ice play and the aging curve of defensemen, makes this contract a very good one for Montreal.
The Salary Cap and the Rogers Deal
Rogers has signed on to be the mostly-sole provider of NHL hockey in Canada for the next 12 years beginning with the 2014-2015 season. The deal will cost the company $5.2 billion, and will be a significant source of revenue for the league moving forward.
Figuring out exactly what the cap will be as an inexact science. The new deal was expected to raise the cap to at least $70 million for this season but the figure actually came in at $69 million. With that said, according the The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle, there’s a good chance that the cap will be over $74 million for the 2015-2016 season. If that is the case, then the salary cap has a good chance to approach $80 million the following year.
Subban’s cap hit in 2016-2017, Year 3 of his deal, would be somewhere between 11-11.5 percent of the total salary cap. For reference, this upcoming season, Brian Campbell (Year 7 of his deal) will be about 12.6 percent of Florida’s total cap; Shea Weber (Year 3) at 11.2 percent; Ryan Suter will be about 10.7 percent (Year 3).
While it’s a good chunk of the cap now, Subban’s AAV won’t be for long, comparatively speaking.
There has been a lot of discussion in the analytics community, and hockey community (which are starting to mesh more and more every day), about what the aging curve of players is. This past spring, Eric Tulsky argued in the Washington Post that forwards don’t peak in their late-20s, rather they peak in their mid-20s. He had a post from March on SBNation that seems to back up this assertion, as judged by production/60 minutes.
Mr. Tulsky followed up that post on SBNation with another one that looked at the 5-on-5 CorsiFor-percentages of both forwards and defensemen as they aged. The average forward will have dropped from a 51-percent CorsiFor at the age of 25 to a 49-percent CorsiFor at the age of 30. Conversely, an average defenseman with a 51-percent CorsiFor at the age of 25 won’t hit a 49-percent CorsiFor until their age 32 or 33 seasons. The decline for defenseman is less severe than that of forwards.
Subban turned 25 years old this past May. In that sense, the Habs will be paying $9 million as an AAV over the next few years, presumably when Subban is at his peak performance. Then, as the cap starts to rise and cruises past $80 million per season, and Subban’s performance presumably starts to decline, his contract as a percentage of the cap will have gone from over 13 percent to under 11 percent.
Subban’s contract will expire at the end of his Age 32 season.
I posed a question on Twitter the day he signed his contract and it was simply this:
Excluding goaltenders, who are 10 players that you’d rather have on your NHL team than P.K. Subban?
The responses were varied, but most revolved around these names: Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Malkin, Doughty, Giroux, Tavares. There’s maybe an argument for Bergeron, Ovechkin, and MacKinnon. In all, maybe there are 10 players. Maybe.
The numbers would seem to back this up.
Since the start of the 2010 season when Subban became an NHL regular, he sports a 53-4-percent GoalsFor and a 52-percent CorsiFor. The former is simply the percentage of goals he’s on the ice for/against at 5-on-5, the latter is the same but shot attempts instead of goals.
Here’s how he stacks up against other defensemen considered elite over that span (taken from Hockey Analysis):
- Drew Doughty: 54.3-percent GoalsFor, 56.3-percent CorsiFor
- Zdeno Chara: 61.7-percent GoalsFor, 55.7-percent CorsiFor
- Shea Weber: 51.6-percent GoalsFor, 49.1-percent CorsiFor
- Erik Karlsson: 48.9-percent GoalsFor, 54.1-percent CorsiFor
- Alex Pietrangelo: 57-percent GoalsFor, 54-3-percent CorsiFor
While Subban’s might not seem too impressive compared to most of these players, it should be noted that Montreal was a middle-of-the-road team over those four years with regard to FenwickFor percentage. Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Boston were all in the top-7, and Ottawa was 10th. Only Nashville was worse, way down in 25th.
In terms of CorsiFor-relative, or the percentage that a player’s CorsiFor is above that of his team’s, Subban looks much more impressive.
Here are his numbers compared to the other five, by season:
By CorsiForRelative, Subban has had a larger positive impact every season than Drew Doughty, he’s out-performed every defenseman on this list except Erik Karlsson over the last two years, and he had a better CorsiForRelative this past campaign than any defenseman on this list. Reminder, he’s still just 25 years old.
Whether some may think that paying an athlete this much money is worth it is another debate (yes, they are worth it in this market). The contract Subban signed with Montreal is going to look very good for the Habs in a couple years, and likely right to the end of the deal.