By Heather Engel
The Montreal Canadiens…without P.K. Subban? It was a question running through many minds following Friday’s arbitration hearing, before coming to a screeching halt on Saturday afternoon.
With a one-year arbitration award looming, Subban and the Canadiens reached an agreement on an eight-year deal worth a reported $72 million, an annual average value of $9 million per season. The contract is the richest and longest in team history, surpassing Carey Price’s six-year, $39 million pact signed in the summer of 2012.
“It’s not easy to negotiate an eight-year deal like this and ultimately that’s what both sides have wanted,” Subban explained on a conference call from Toronto. “Obviously [Friday], going through the arbitration hearing, it’s a part of the process, it’s a part of learning, part of the game, and it’s part of the CBA. We followed every step in terms of the process and that was a part of it but I’ve always felt strongly about being a Montreal Canadien. I never thought that I would end up anywhere else.”
Common expectation was that the two sides would reach a deal before stepping foot into the room with the arbitrator. Then 9 a.m. hit and there was nothing. The hearing got under way and the hours ticked by until all parties emerged from the room for good early in the afternoon.
General manager Marc Bergevin declined comment as did Don Meehan, Subban’s agent. The defenseman spoke but was measured. And while negotiations on a new contract could continue up until the arbitrator’s ruling was announced, Twitter was abuzz with speculation on what his future with Montreal might hold should the one-year award be the end result.
As much as talk as there is about the negativity associated with the process, Subban never felt it.
“When you hear different things about your game and critiques and so on and so forth, I think that stuff can be positive as well. I think a lot of people looked at the arbitration hearing as something that’s negative and I didn’t really see it that way,” he said. “I think the only thing that might be unsettling is that sometimes you just want to get a deal done.
“I have more respect for Marc Bergevin and Geoff Molson than any other time in my career since I’ve been in Montreal in terms of the way they conducted themselves. They’ve treated me very well, both on and off the ice, since I’ve been here,” added Subban, acknowledging that the input of Molson, owner and team president, throughout the process was “monumental”.
In his third off-season at the helm, Bergevin was facing his toughest moment yet – both from a hockey standpoint and in the public eye. Many felt it should never have gotten to the hearing after the GM held firm on a bridge contract two seasons ago. Subban, after all, had followed that up with a Norris Trophy in 2013 and a career year on the ice – including a team-leading 14 points in the playoffs – this past season.
“A lot of people that know Marc Bergevin know the type of guy he is; he cares a lot about his players and I know he cares a lot about me. He would never put a player in a position that would hurt him or hurt this team and this organization,” the blue-liner noted. “He’s been great for this team moving forward, he’s made some great decisions for this team in the best interest of this team, and a lot of people have to lay off of him now.
“I really don’t want to hear those negative comments towards those guys because they’ve done a great job and they’ve worked so hard to try and get this deal done.”