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Two Curious Cases

There wasn’t enough content for a mailbag this week, so instead I thought I’d look at a couple of questions I was wondering about. First:

What is going on with P.K. Subban?

Whenever contract negotiations are happening, what leaks to the media is only the most general and unimportant things. Usually it’s unreliable as well. However for weeks now there have been multiple legitimate sources saying very confidently that Subban’s camp wants a long term contract, and Marc Bergevin is looking at a 2 year contract.

This is an odd situation because each side is arguing for the exact thing that isn’t in their interest to argue. Subban’s negotiating position in two years, when Scott Gomez and Tomas Kaberle are assuredly gone, would be phenomenal. He would be looking at piles and piles of money. This year he’s essentially capped at significantly below the Norris Trophy winning Erik Karlsson’s $6.5M AAV.

Subban is as confident as it gets, so the long term contract isn’t because he thinks he can’t replicate the previous two years. Security is obviously part of it, but you have to think that if Subban wants a long term contract now, it has more to do with being happy where he is than anything else.

Bergevin on the other hand is looking at Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller and thinking that a 2 year contract at a reasonable dollar is standard for a good player coming off of an entry level contract. There’s a logic to this, but it’s important to remember the circumstances here. Both Pacioretty and Eller were given those contracts because they were still just potentially good players. Pacioretty had dominated for half a season, but had his neck broken. There was some risk in whether he could be the same player again. Eller has not yet dominated the game offensively, so giving him two years to get there is smart.

Subban is not just potentially a good player, he’s proven. This is a guy who’s worth taking the risks inherent in a long term contract. Bergevin has negotiated some great RFA contracts this summer, so far be it from me to tell him how to do his job, but he’s whiffing here. Accept the gift you’re being given in Subban signing long term for a reasonable salary and get it done already.

What’s going on with Andrei Kostitsyn?

Seriously. It’s September now and I haven’t heard a rumour about teams interested in AK46 since July, and none of the rumours in July were from anyone credible. Andrei ran into trouble last year in the playoffs with Alexander Radulov, staying out past curfew drinking on a game night, but he was punished appropriately by the Predators and played again.

Kostitsyn has a reputation for disappearing for large portions of the season, but his play is still that of a solid second line player. He can score 20 goals, he can hit 40 points. He’s a good forechecker and better defensively than anyone gives him credit for. He’s been a positive possession player relative to his team 3 of his 5 NHL seasons, last year just below even at -0.6. 4 of his 5 seasons he’s faced better than average competition.

Over the last 5 seasons Kostitsyn has averaged 20 goals and 23 assists for 43 points per 82 games, and I’ve projected him for 22 goals and 24 assists for 46 points per 82 games next season. This is not a useless player. Even more interestingly, he can likely be had a bargain for around $3M per season, which would make him the most cost effective free agent still available. So why do we hear nothing?

We know he’s not interested in the KHL, he’s made that clear multiple times. So it makes sense that we don’t hear any rumours from there. The Predators didn’t want to have him back after the bad behaviour in the playoffs, which is curious because Kostitsyn’s play for them was pretty solid.

This, for me, begs the question: Is there something NHL general managers know about Andrei Kostitsyn that we don’t?

Watching him play and looking at the numbers he puts up, he’s an effective NHL player who could help most teams for a reasonable price, yet no one is touching him. Surely breaking curfew by one hour with Radulov after years of good behaviour with the Montreal Canadiens, where he was liked in the dressing room, isn’t enough to tar a player’s image forever. The Leafs smartly wanted Mikhail Grabovski after he’d skipped a team flight and several practices, so bad decisions can be forgiven if there’s talent there.

Why don’t NHL teams want this guy?

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