Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin signed the restricted free agent defenseman Monday evening to a two-year contract worth a reported $5.75 million, ending a contract holdout that had the city of Montreal in a panic for the past two weeks.
Subban, 23, will report to the team Wednesday morning in Ottawa for the Canadiens' morning skate prior to them facing the Senators that evening. It's likely Subban's first game would be Saturday at home against the Buffalo Sabres, with two practice days available to properly integrate him into the lineup.
Subban said he'd watched each of the Canadiens' four games this season, but it was the season-opening ceremony prior to Game 1 at Bell Centre that was the most difficult to watch from home.
"I think difficult is an understatement. It was extremely tough," Subban said during a conference call with reporters Monday night. "I'd probably say the toughest was watching the home opener, watching all the great players that have come through the Montreal organization that helped build this franchise. They've put in place that mentality of the Montreal Canadiens as a family and a team. I think that's the most important thing about the Montreal Canadiens. I grew up a fan, my father's a huge Montreal fan, and growing up watching the Montreal Canadiens everybody knows it's not just about one player, it's about a team and building a team and building a championship team. I want to be a part of that."
The conversations between Bergevin and Subban's agent, Don Meehan, over this contract began shortly after Bergevin was hired by the Canadiens in May, and ever since then the sticking point was term. Subban publicly stated on numerous occasions how he wanted to sign a long-term contract with the Canadiens, and he recently noted how he only wanted to be paid what he was worth. Bergevin, however, wanted to stick to a two-year deal similar to the "bridge" deals other young players on the Canadiens signed coming out of their entry level deals like Carey Price, Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec and Josh Gorges.
"We talked internally, but we felt it was the best thing for the organization that moving forward, shorter was the best route," Bergevin said. "Obviously, P.K. and Donnie agreed because we agreed on this deal today. I think we're all better off, the Montreal Canadiens and P.K. and I'm looking forward to him being a part of the team moving forward."
The breakdown in salary is reported to be a pro-rated $2 million this season and $3.75 million next season, which will be the number used for a potential qualifying offer or a salary arbitration case if Subban and the Canadiens are unable to come to an agreement at the conclusion of this contract.
In spite of his long stated desire to sign a long-term contract, Subban said he was very happy with how the negotiation turned out.
"This was the best deal not only for myself, but for the Montreal Canadiens, more importantly. At the end of the day when you can leave a negotiation and both sides are happy, that's the best," he said. "I'm so happy to be back with my team. This is where my heart is, it's in Montreal."
Subban began his conference call by thanking the Canadiens, but also pointing out the tremendous start to the season of defenseman Andrei Markov, who has picked up the slack left by Subban's absence to lead the team to a three-game winning streak.
Subban was cognizant of the fact that his contract negotiation may have begun to stall what has been a strong start to the season for the Canadiens, and he didn't want that to happen.
"I think it was the right decision to come to an agreement," Subban said. "That was the best thing for us to move forward and that was the best thing for our team to move forward. The longer this thing held over our team, the bigger distraction it becomes."
The Canadiens have never really had Subban and a healthy Markov in the lineup at the same time, seeing as Subban's entire career in the NHL coincides nearly perfectly with the two years of injuries Markov has endured prior to this season. The two have played in 20 regular season and three Stanley Cup Playoff games together dating back to 2010.
Subban was the Canadiens leader in ice time last season at 24:18 per game, and Markov is this year's leader at 25:18 per game. While coach Michel Therrien obviously hasn't divulged his defense pairings with Subban taken into account, a logical spot for him would be next to Josh Gorges on the second pair while Markov and Alexei Emelin maintain their very successful pairing thus far. So in theory, the Canadiens could have either Markov or Subban on the ice for nearly 50 minutes a night if Therrien chose to split the defense minutes in that fashion.
But first, Subban will need to find a way to fit back in on a team that counts several new faces and has already begun molding a new identity after last season disastrous last place finish in the Eastern Conference.
"I already have a decent base with a lot of the new players coming in, but I do look forward to getting in the dressing room and playing with them and being on the road with them and practicing with them and getting to know them a lot better," Subban said. "I'm extremely anxious to do that because ultimately, our team is starting to form and we're looking great right now. So the quicker I can do that, the better off I'll be."
And, for that matter, the better off the Canadiens will be as well.
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