Contract negotiations are always tricky, especially in the age of social media when within seconds of any contract announcement, there are people trying to determine who’s a winner and who’s a loser.
Unlike NHL games that end in regulation, NHL contracts aren’t black-or-white. Just because one side is a winner, it doesn’t mean the other is a loser.
The first reaction for this contract is that the Montreal Canadiens are a big winner. They locked in what they hope will be their top centre for the maximum term, eight years. They do so at a cap hit that is likely a little high for what he has been, but what they hope is a bargain for what he will become.
The only way this becomes a bad contract is if Suzuki has no improvement left in him, which is unlikely. The rest of the possibilities for this deal range from fair contract to significant bargain.
Suzuki isn’t a loser in this, though. He gets certainty, and stability. He still gets a lot of money. The value in this contract comes in the latter half. Some may say that Suzuki didn’t bet on himself by choosing to sign before the season, but at the same time, he’ll have another opportunity to make a pay day when he turns 30.
He may have left money on the table, but this isn’t necessarily a Nathan MacKinnon or Brendan Gallagher contract. At least not yet.
One thing about this is clear: Suzuki wants to be a Montreal Canadien. You don’t sign a contract that takes away four years of unrestricted free agency if you aren’t committed to the organization.
Tyler Toffoli’s remarkable ode to Montreal was meaningful for a city and team that everyone says players would rather not be a part of. It is a narrative that has been somewhat neutered over the last few years with players choosing to be a part of the organization, and others choosing to stay.
The fact is, despite a change to some of the key parts, the ones who remain want to be a part of the next era of the organization. Suzuki is a big part of that, and his cap hit likely allows them to be flexible in that regard. They still have to lock up Cole Caufield, but other than him, only Jonathan Drouin has less than two years remaining on his contract among the team’s top-nine forwards.
There is still work to do for both Suzuki and the Canadiens. Suzuki needs to continue his growth and become a number one centre, otherwise the team will have bigger issues than just his cap hit. The Canadiens have a solid core, but currently are still closer to missing the playoffs on paper than they are to Stanley Cup contender.
Basically, Montreal and Suzuki are both betting on each other.
Montreal and general manager Marc Bergevin always had an eye on the window that was closing with Shea Weber and Carey Price. Bergevin was adamant that he would not sacrifice the future for a quick run. He was adamant that he wanted to build the Canadiens into a perennial contender.
The Price/Weber window may almost be all the way closed. Weber may not play another game for the team. Suzuki, Caufield, Christian Dvorak, Josh Anderson, and Toffoli don’t only represent the future of the organization, but also the present. This may not be the same team that made the Final just a few months ago, but the next Canadiens team to make the Final may look closer to the current one.
Even surrounding questions about his future, Bergevin is thinking about the long-term viability of the organization but at a certain point the future and the present intersect.
For the Canadiens, the future is still bright, but the future is also now.