subban bergevinEveryone seems to have a theory on the dynamics of the P.K. Subban contract negotiation and nobody has any hard information on which to base them.

If we are to believe some members of the media and the majority of social media,  Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was forced into a panic cave-in to Subban demands after his authority was undermined by team president Geoff Molson.  Jack Todd in Monday’s Gazette was only the most recent of a long line of speculation to come up with that scenario.

Is everyone sure about that?   I’m certainly not.

It’s safe to say negotiations were tough.  And well they should have been since we we were dealing with a potential for a total contract of over 70 million dollars.  The two sides reached an impasse and wound up in front of the arbitrator talking which would have produced an unsatisfying  contract of one year duration between 7.5 and 8 million dollars.

We have no idea what numbers were being thrown back and forth in the final hours at the bargaining table.  Was it possible that the two sides had arrived at something like an 8 million dollar offer from the Canadiens and a ten million dollar demand from Subban and company and during the 24 hours following the hearing both sides decided to compromise at 9 million?  It’s as good a theory as the rest of the unfounded stuff we were reading and hearing over the last two weeks.

If this was in fact the case, it’s surely destroys a rush-to -judgment story line that branded Bergevin as a bungler who was taken to the cleaners by Subban and then only after Molson stepped in overrule his general manager.   In no time flat, that story line became reality with no evidence there was any basis to it in ‘fact’.

Subban can be blamed for part of it when during his news conference he singled out Molson for special praise for his part in the bargaining process.  He’s been trying to backtrack since.  Tuesday he told reporters “I think it was a little bit unsettling to hear some of the things that were said about management and Marc during the process.”

Molson may have been part of the final mediation process but he is also a smart enough businessman to know you don’t overrule the person you’ve hired to be your general manager.  With only 69 million dollars to spend under the annual salary cap, there was no way Bergevin could put the team into bankruptcy and how the GM uses those 69 million dollars will define the success of the club over the next years.

I also think that by the amount of money he left available on the cap before the Subban contract was settled, that he fully expected to spend the money it took to get the contract done with 2.6 million to spare.
downloadAt the annual Michel Therrien charity golf tournament Tuesday Bergevin spoke up for the first time.  He told reporters, “For every contract I do, whether it’s an entry-level contract or one of the magnitude of P.K.’s, I’m in contact with the owner. ………Geoff supports me 100 per cent. All the decisions are made by me and the hockey personnel.”   He added that this was one of the conditions of his acceptance of the job in Montreal.   That’s probably the last we’ll hear on the matter.   

Sports fans delude themselves into thinking their passion is a “game” but in the cap world the “business” side of sports has become increasingly important.  Fans want a winner, but you can’t have a winner if 30 percent of your salary cap is taken up by two players which is the situation in Pittsburgh and will be the situation in Chicago starting in the 2015-2016 season.  Right now the team’s two best players, Subban and Carey Price are signed long term for just under 16 million dollars, about 23 percent of the cap space next year.

The negotiations produced all kinds of irrational commentary during July.  My favourite came from Hockey Night in Canada’s Kevin Weekes who, as a former player should know better.

Kevin WeekesVerified account‏@KevinWeekes

The mere fact that a player/person of his calibre has to be in this contract with the @CanadiensMTL when he’s proven so much is despicable.

 Really Kevin?  Despicable?