With contract negotiations finally in his rearview mirror, P.K. Subban is gearing up for his long-awaited return to the Montreal Canadiens' lineup -- something that brings music to the ears of his fantasy owners.
And remember, this isn't just any young defenseman with fantasy potential. After scoring 14 goals as a rookie in 2010-11, Subban still provided his owners with rare category coverage despite falling into a so-called "sophomore slump" when the Habs missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season ago.
Last year, Subban finished with 36 points (T-26th among defenseman), 205 shots on goal (7th), 119 PIMs (1st) & 14 power-play points (T-20th), but never truly found his groove offensively. This season, Subban finds himself in a promising situation upon his return, as the Canadiens are off to a 3-1-0 start riding the hot hand of blueliner Andrei Markov (4G, 1A, plus-2, 5 PPP in 4 games). If Subban meshes well with Markov, we could be talking about the younger of the two being a top-10 fantasy defenseman when it's all said and done.
But on the flip side, what will happen to Subban's value if he disrupts the flow of a power-play unit currently tied for the sixth-best conversion rate in the NHL? What if it takes a while for him to acclimate himself to new coach Michel Therrien's system at both ends of the ice?
These are valid areas of concern for fantasy owners, but the most important thing to note is that Subban will be back on the ice in the near future -- something that was far from a given for the past few weeks.
NHL.com's Arpon Basu reported Tuesday that Therrien would not commit to when Subban would make his debut for the team, but considering the 23-year-old is in good health, it will only be a matter of time before he's back on the ice with a legitimate chance to bolster an already functioning Habs' offense.
Subban spent most of last season paired with Josh Gorges on the blue line and is expected to assume a major role again in 2012-13, especially as the team continues to cope with losing forward Max Pacioretty for 3-4 weeks due to surgery following an emergency appendectomy. The loss of Pacioretty for that time frame could be detrimental to the club offensively, leaving a prime opportunity for Subban to make an immediate impact if all goes according to plan.
While fantasy owners brace themselves for Subban to potentially return as early as this week, it would be wise to activate him off Injured Reserve and get any corresponding roster adjustments out of the way. Owners should also keep their eyes glued to NHL.com's At the Rink blog for updates as this story unfolds.