You know, working out what one has to pay a player really isn't as complicated as some make it seem. While I''m sure PK Subban may have rolled the dice with comparisons to Karlsson, he and his agent are smart enough to give up that trick early.
But PK knows his range well. It's a range that has clearly been set by the salaries given to players in the current team make up.
Let's disregard UFAs for the moment (although paying Subban less than Brandon Prust is an impossibility), and concentrate on the players who have been resigned to the Canadiens in recent years:
Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges, Max Pacioretty and Carey Price.
Markov and Gorges are defencemen, so that proves helpful for comparators. Pacioretty is Subban's age, also useful, and Price is talked about in the same way that Subban is.
In 2007, Markov signed the contract that would make him the highest paid player in Canadiens history (for a while). At the time, he was 28 and a pending UFA. There was a lot of leverage on his side. The team had also only recently dismissed Sheldon Souray and Craig Rivet to make him the senior member of the team's defence. He was coming off a 49-point season that was really the culmination of a lot of good seasons. It was clear he was a star, even if the league had not yet invited him to an all-star game.
That contract paid him $5.75 million at a time when that stood near the top of the league for his position.
The contract was extended for 3 further seasons in 2011after a season in which he played seven games for the very same money. He has this year and another remaining on the deal.
Markov for me is the upper limit for Subban. He cannot think he should be paid more than the Habs 1998 draft pick and all-around best player of a decade at his very position. In fact, as good as Subban is, Markov has done it before and even slightly better. The salaries at the end of the day should reflect this.
Josh was 27, going on 28 when he signed his very long and well endowed deal with the Habs.
On arriving in Montreal at the age of 22, he took it slow. He was kept around for another contract that was made for three years, but this was really his first NHL deal, and the money reflected that. His second deal at the first crack at UFAdom reflected the fact that he had just missed much of a season with injury and was untested on a surgical repair. Last season being his return, led to the expiry of his second Canadiens contract and the subsequent decision to extend the defensive defenceman for 6 years at $3.9 million a season.
With all due respect to Josh Gorges, if PK Subban is even considering signing beyond a UFA threshold, this represents a floor above which he should hover quite comfortably. Because the last management decided that Josh Gorges would be worth $3.9 million a season, it made a tacit declaration that Subban would be paid closer to the $5 million range.
Those two contracts in themselves make things pretty clear. Subban should be paid between the two players, and if he is giving up future earning potential of UFA windows, then he should be closer to Markov than Gorges.
But maybe some other signings shed more light.
Max just signed a six-year extension of his own worth an average of $4.5 million a season. Max was drafted the very same year as PK and is the same age. He began in the NHL at a younger age, but took longer to get his feet. Last season was his first full season of breakout and he cashed in on it -- to an extent. His $4.5 million will be a bargain to boast about for years if he maintains his play, of that there is no doubt. He took a discount compared to some of the guys around the league who have accomplished less for their payday.
For Subban, this is another point of reference. PK has already had as much, if not more success at the top flight than Max, and at the same age, probably deserves something in that ballpark. Whether PK views Max's contract as a discount or not may depend on...
This summer made Carey Price the most expensive signing ever for the Canadiens. he will now make more than Andrei Markov, the team elder.
He is going to be paid $6.5 million a season for the upcoming 6 years.
Though a bit older and more experienced than PK, it is entirely possible that PK sees himself very much in Carey's league despite the gap in experience and age.
What is unlikely is that PK sees himself in Carey's boat from 2010, after which the Habs goalie recouped a steady $2.75 million following a pretty decent downturn in form and reasonable questions about his future. PK, as of now hasn't experienced his down year, and is probably making that case in negotiation. $2.75 million is an absolute floor beyond which we could never see his contract.
But let;s take Meehan and PK's side vs. Price of 2012. After raising questions in 2010, he turned in a near nomination season, followed by one that was not near nomination. And this in the Canadiens world of contract awards meant he would make himself the 3rd highest paid goalie in the league.
How does a player like Subban, who stepped in to the number one defenceman role with ease, and played not just decent offense, but the best defence on the team take carey's numbers to the bank?
Too easy to be a $4 million player?
So the Habs internal salary structure really does give a lot of help. Markov $ > Subban $ > Gorges $.
Subban $ = Minimum $ Pacioretty
Subban $ = Aspriational $ Price
I think the team should be fair and pay him $4.75 million a season for as many seasons as he's willing to sign up at the price.
Subban has to take a step back too and understand that he has not done what Markov did to earn his paycheque, and he would be a fair bit less than humble to be asking for much more than Plekanec claims on his paydays.
If people think the number is high, they should look to those who made it so very easy to be a $2 million player on the Habs, a bit too easy to make $4 million. If Subban thinks the number is low, he should consider the team he'd end up with if he sequestered all the money for himself.
Anyone who can see that must have questions about why this drags on into the start of the season.