The notable games involving Canadian NHL clubs for next season, plus the latest on P.K. Subban, Phil Kessel, Zach Bogosian and more.
CBC.CA: Hockey Night in Canada’s 61st season will open on October 1 with the Toronto Maple Leafs visiting the Montreal Canadiens while the Edmonton Oilers host the Winnipeg Jets. The site also provided a list of notable games for all seven Canadian NHL teams.
LA PRESSE: Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban said he’s in no hurry to engage in contract extension talks this summer. Subban said he has a year remaining on his current contract, after which he’ll be a restricted free agent again.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At the time of Subban’s signing, I wrote it was a gamble by Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin, and suggested if Subban blossomed into a superstar during the two-year deal, it would prove costly to re-sign him next time around. Subban now has a Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman on his resume, and sees Kris Letang, one of the runners-up for the Norris, pulling in $7.25 million per season on an eight-year deal. Next summer, Subban will also have arbitration rights, and could also become a target for an offer sheet.No wonder, then, he’s willing to wait until next summer to talk contract.
Even if his performance in 2013-14 doesn’t match up to his Norris-winning season, he still has that trophy on his resume, meaning he’ll command north of $7.5 million per season. And if he’s a Norris contender again? Try $8.5 million per. And if he wins it again? Hello, $9 million per season, maybe more. Oh, you don’t think he’ll get that much? Ho-ho! You don’t know how this game is played. Subban and his agent will seek what they consider fair market price, and since Letang got $7.25 million per, bet your ass Subban seeks at least $8 million per season.
Now, the good news for the Habs is if the cap jumps back up to $70 million again as anticipated, they’ll have over $30 million in cap space, more than enough to re-sign Subban, plus it should leave enough to re-sign RFA Lars Eller and either re-sign or replace Andrei Markov, Raphael Diaz, Alexei Emelin and Brian Gionta. The bad news is, if they let his contract talks drag on too long into next summer, he could prove too tempting a target for a rival club to swoop in with an offer sheet. And if that happens, the Habs will be forced to match at a salary not of their choosing.
TORONTO STAR: A.J. Warner believes Maple Leafs Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf will be in line for big raises next season. Warner pegs Kessel’s market value at $8.1 million per season on a maximum eight-year deal, while Phaneuf’s would be five-years at $6.9 million per season.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I think Warner’s assessment is spot on for both players. Now I realize some Leafs fans will claim neither player is worth that much, but that’s the reality of today’s NHL market. I pegged Kessel at $7.5 million per, and Phaneuf staying at $6.5 million. If they don’t get those salaries from the Leafs, they’ll certainly get them from other clubs if they become unrestricted free agents. I believe the Leafs want to retain Kessel and will pay top dollar to do so, but Phaneuf’s future with the Leafs is murky, with trade rumors swirling for some time. Ultimately, if Phaneuf wants to remain a Leaf, he might have to consider a pay cut to $6 million per on a shorter-term.
WINNIPEG FREE PRESS: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is focused on re-signing Zach Bogosian, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little before their salary arbitration hearings. Little’s hearing is slated for next Wednesday (July 24), Wheeler’s on July 29 and Bogosian’s on August 2.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Jets don’t want any of these cases to go to arbitration. These things almost never end well, and almost always result in the player bolting for unrestricted free agency when his arbitration-awarded contract is over.