The Montreal Canadiens' and Don Meehan's brinkmanship tactics haven't paid off for either side. It was seen as unimaginable that the two sides would end up going to arbitration, yet there they were today, for three hours.
It was reported that both sides left arbitration in sour moods, but the sourest seemed to be P.K. Subban. For the last two years Subban has been adamant that he wanted to commit to the Canadiens long term, only to cave to Bergevin's demands on a two year bridge deal for less than half his market value. Coming out of arbitration, Subban's agent said they no longer had plans to negotiate a long term contract. That's a huge change.
Here's the problem though, the whole notion of Subban taking a bridge deal was predicated on the idea that he would be rewarded for his play without much fuss, compensated appropriately, and long term. Obviously, this is not what was offered.
It's impossible to lay all the blame on one side of the negotiations, that's not how this works, but the reality is that the onus is on the Canadiens. Subban already did them a gigantic favour by accepting a bridge deal, allowing them to not only be more competitive the last two years, but to set a precedent to keep other young stars at low salaries an extra two years.
I don't think that anyone can fault Bergevin for being a tough negotiator, trying to get the best value he can with Subban, but at a certain point, the risk becomes too great. At a certain point you need to realize that there's only one thing you can do.
That's right, cave. Subban will be the richest Montreal Canadien in the history of the organization, and it's time to accept it. Put aside any reservations you have and offer the olive branch of a contract far above what you've offered so far. Maybe you end up paying Subban a million or two more than you wanted to, but here's the thing; Who cares?
You want to save a couple million dollars? Stop paying your fourth liners $2M per season. Employ a cheaper back up goalie. Scrimp and save in other places where you're not sacrificing one of the best players in the NHL. You took a risk in not locking up Subban to a long term deal two years ago, now it's time to pay the piper.
Courting disaster instead of success
It's plain to see for anything with an analytical eye that the Canadiens are a team on the rise. Subban is the marquee piece on a team that boasts more young stars that the Canadiens have had since the 1993 Cup winning edition, but with Subban the roster slips from potential contender to also-ran.
To come off of the most successful playoffs since 1993 and put yourself on the brink of cratering your team makes no sense. No matter what the reasoning is for this hardline approach, it's doing damage to the brand. And rest assured, the brand is in trouble.
Elder stars must give way to new ones
The Canadiens have been selling past successes for years now, but let's be honest for a second, they can't do that much longer. It's a hard truth that legends like Jean Beliveau and Henri Richard don't have many more years left. It may sound callous to state it, but eventually the Canadiens need to transition from selling history to selling what they have, and losing P.K. Subban would deal a serious blow to that.
Montreal has the current NHL sell out streak, yet many don't remember that in the early 2000's, the Canadiens were losing money and couldn't sell out their own barn. Does anyone in their right mind believe the Canadiens wouldn't suffer a financial backlash is the most talented, and sellable star since Guy Lafleur was forced out of the organization just because they didn't want to pay him? If the Canadiens are going to be cheap, their fans will be too.
Marc, just fix this
At the end of the day Marc Bergevin's number one job is to make his team as good as possible. P.K. Subban is the most important part of that. There are maybe, maybe five defensemen in the NHL who are comparable to Subban, and none of them are getting traded. He is an irreplaceable talent. This is Bergevin's legacy as an executive we're talking about here. To screw this situation up would be to undo all the good work he's laid down in Montreal. It would cement Bergevin as the worst general manager in Montreal since Rejean Houle. People complain about Bob Gainey, but he didn't lose McDonagh after he was an established NHL star. This is far worse. Just fix it.