Skip to content

P.K. Subban vs. the NHL’s other big-money defensemen

Aug 2, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

Montreal Canadiens v New York Rangers - Game Six Getty Images

There were basically three types of responses to P.K. Subban‘s mammoth eight-year, $72 million extension on Saturday:

1) Those spouting “That’s way too much money” while critiquing the player and/or the deal.

2) More than a few people who believe that Subban is worth every penny.

3) Those who praised other deals as huge bargains in hindsight. (Erik Karlsson‘s name came up a lot there.)

The third consideration probably brings up the most interesting – and healthiest – discussions. By receiving that ransom at 25, Subban sets a new bar for blueliners in much the same way that forwards have a new ceiling to shoot for following dual $10.5 million marks for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Ignoring the many contextual factors that went into this deal as compared to the contracts owned by his elite peers – from a rising salary cap to a new CBA – how does Subban compare to other expensive blueliners? To start things off, let’s do things the simple way by glancing at Cap Geek’s most comparable contracts at his position in 2014-15:

Name Age Length Start Expiry Salary Cap Hit Cap Pct
Subban, P.K. » 25 8 2014 2022 $9,000,000 $9,000,000 13.04%
Weber, Shea » 28 14 2012 2026 $14,000,000 $7,857,143 11.19%
Suter, Ryan » 29 13 2012 2025 $11,000,000 $7,538,462 10.74%
Letang, Kris » 27 8 2014 2022 $7,250,000 $7,250,000 10.51%
Campbell, Brian » 35 8 2008 2016 $7,142,875 $7,142,875 12.60%
Doughty, Drew » 24 8 2011 2019 $7,000,000 $7,000,000 10.89%
Phaneuf, Dion » 29 7 2014 2021 $8,000,000 $7,000,000 10.14%
Chara, Zdeno » 37 7 2011 2018 $7,000,000 $6,916,667 10.76%
Karlsson, Erik » 24 7 2012 2019 $6,500,000 $6,500,000 9.26%
Pietrangelo, Alex » 24 7 2013 2020 $5,500,000 $6,500,000 10.11%
Green, Mike » 28 3 2012 2015 $6,250,000 $6,083,333 8.67%
Seabrook, Brent » 29 5 2011 2016 $5,000,000 $5,800,000 9.02%
Burns, Brent » 29 5 2012 2017 $5,760,000 $5,760,000 8.21%
Niskanen, Matt » 27 7 2014 2021 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Enstrom, Tobias » 29 5 2013 2018 $5,750,000 $5,750,000 8.94%
Markov, Andrei » 35 3 2014 2017 $7,000,000 $5,750,000 8.33%
Keith, Duncan » 31 13 2010 2023 $7,600,000 $5,538,462 9.32%
Myers, Tyler » 24 7 2012 2019 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
Carle, Matt » 29 6 2012 2018 $5,750,000 $5,500,000 7.83%
E.-Larsson, O. » 23 6 2013 2019 $4,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%
Wisniewski, James » 30 6 2011 2017 $5,000,000 $5,500,000 8.55%

Interesting stuff, huh?

Depending upon the person who’s framing an argument, Subban’s peers can fall more in line with Shea Weber – the most recent defenseman who experienced a bumpy ride in which arbitration was prominently involved – or someone like Karlsson or Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Any way you slice it, many of those deals really do look great with hindsight; one could imagine the cackles of Chicago Blackhawks fans who delight in Duncan Keith only taking up 9.32 percent of their cap or Victor Hedman‘s ludicrous steal-of-a-deal at $4 million per season.

In all honesty, it’s not totally fair to Subban or the Canadiens to compare his deal with other blueliners who were in very different situations. If nothing else, the rest of the NHL should be very pleased that their blue-chip blueliners aren’t set to hit the market anytime soon, though.

Bargains and value discussions aside, where does Subban fit among the NHL’s elite? That’s a tricky question, especially since he’s received mixed treatment from those who deploy him.

Perception, reality and P.K.

As much as the numbers seem to indicate that Subban is the real deal – not just offensive numbers, but the whole picture – there’s the (probably unfair) impression that he needs to improve greatly in his own end.

Consider the fact that he was often used lightly by Team Canada head coach Mike Babcock during the 2014 Olympics. Without getting into speculation about his relationship with Habs bench boss Michel Therrien, Subban didn’t carry the toughest workload in 2013-14:

If you judge a player based on the opinions of the decision-makers, Subban falls behind some of the best of the best.

Here’s the thing, though: his numbers are pretty sterling in just about any situation, making an argument that he can handle the burden of huge expectations. Subban generated 165 points since his first full season in the NHL back in 2010-11, ranking him seventh among defensemen. The numbers only get better if you restrict them to more recent seasons. He doesn’t get enough credit for his overall work, either.

Here’s a look at how he compares to some of the league’s best via Extra Skater’s handy “compare” tools:

Player GP G P CF% CF% rel PDO ZS% ZS% rel EVTOI% PPTOI% SHTOI% QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
P.K. Subban 82 10 53 49.90% 0.051 99.8 47.40% 0.038 39.00% 80.30% 11.20% 28.80% 27.90%
Erik Karlsson 82 20 74 54.80% 0.043 99.1 55.00% 0.076 43.20% 76.00% 24.00% 29.00% 27.80%
Brian Campbell 82 7 37 52.70% 0.03 99 49.90% 0.009 42.20% 66.20% 37.50% 28.80% 27.20%
Drew Doughty 78 10 37 58.50% 0.029 100.8 54.10% -0.90% 38.90% 64.20% 42.20% 29.00% 26.90%
Alex Pietrangelo 81 8 51 54.90% 0.029 101.7 52.30% -0.50% 38.50% 50.70% 55.70% 29.50% 29.50%
Duncan Keith 79 6 61 56.60% 0.02 100.4 57.30% 0.027 37.20% 61.30% 48.40% 28.90% 28.50%
Zdeno Chara 77 17 40 55.20% 0.018 101.3 48.30% -9.10% 37.00% 55.20% 58.10% 29.90% 27.70%
Ryan Suter 82 8 43 48.60% -0.40% 102.2 54.20% 0.098 45.60% 71.50% 44.90% 29.30% 29.10%
Shea Weber 79 23 56 48.00% -0.70% 100.1 44.60% -6.60% 41.00% 63.10% 54.10% 29.60% 29.10%
Kris Letang 37 11 22 48.80% -1.50% 97.3 53.10% 0.039 36.30% 71.70% 41.00% 28.90% 28.00%
Oliver Ekman-Larsson 80 15 44 49.20% -1.80% 100.5 48.40% -4.60% 37.10% 74.40% 54.00% 29.80% 27.60%
Dion Phaneuf 80 8 31 40.80% -2.80% 103.1 37.20% -4.90% 34.10% 62.50% 52.40% 30.10% 29.10%

(Note: it’s OK if your eyes are glazing over at some of those categories.)

To generalize, Subban stacks up nicely in most regards … although his lack of PK work (pause for giggles) is indeed glaring.

With that in mind, the most interesting question might shift from “Where does Subban rank?” to “Will Therrien use his best defenseman in a way that gives his team the best chance to succeed?” Whatever happens, it won’t be easy for Subban to live up to these expectations, yet the Canadiens could very well be happy that they made this huge investment … if they play their cards right.

  1. nyking1963 - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:13 PM

    The mere fact that Drew Dougty’s contract ranks as the 6th highest is somewhat amusing.
    He’s the best D’man in the league. Great job by Dean Lombardi. That contract looks like a bargain to me at this point.
    No wonder the Kings can keep all of thei guys together and win multiple cups.

    • skuba7 - Aug 2, 2014 at 7:10 PM

      Doughty signed his contract 3 years ago, as you can see in the table above. What do you think Doughty would earn if he signed a contract today? While PK was earning $2.875 AAV, Doughty was already earning $7 AAV.
      I agree, Doughty is a better player right now. But PK generates plenty of revenue for his Franchise while dealing with the Montreal spotlight.

      • nyking1963 - Aug 2, 2014 at 9:58 PM

        It’s not about generating revenue..it’s about cap management.
        Can they build around him with the cap room available? He’s taking up 13% of thei cap space. That’s a lot.

      • phtjoey - Aug 3, 2014 at 7:45 AM

        “It’s not about generating revenue” that’s part of it. he does make the team better, and the more wins they get with him in the line up the more profits they make. Especially in the playoffs.

  2. blynasty - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Seabrook’s cap hit is higher than Keith’s?

    • James O'Brien - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:22 PM

      Yes, but Keith sacrificed cap hit for term:

      http://capgeek.com/blackhawks/

      Seabrook’s deal is up after the 2015-16 season.

    • 19to77 - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:25 PM

      Keith’s contract was for roughly a quadrillion years (actually 13 but still)

  3. btlpper68 - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    Marc edouard Vlasic, the guy Subban was scratched for Dosent even make half of subbans new deal and you can actually trust him to defend, Subban, just like Erik Karlson takes a lot of risks and gets burned quite a lot

    • btlpper68 - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:28 PM

      Scratched for on Team Canada**

  4. c9castine - Aug 2, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    kris letang plays 37 games around broken bones and a stroke and is among the elite in advanced stats and you guys dont think he is any good.

    subban is worth the money. period. hes what the team is built around. solid center depth, scoring wingers, toughness and goaltending round out the equation.

    • broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 2, 2014 at 10:20 PM

      How can a -8 even be remotely construed as elite for one of the highest paid D-men in the league?

      • killerpgh - Aug 3, 2014 at 9:31 AM

        Because +/- is a great way to judge a player……

        Nicklas Lidstrom won the Norris in 2011 and was a “minus” play that year.

      • broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 3, 2014 at 11:31 AM

        Yup, leave it to a delusional Pens fan to try and put Letang in the same category as the great Nik Lidstrom.

      • buckhome - Aug 3, 2014 at 10:27 AM

        PLEEEZE – you pick out the only year in Lidstrom’s long career that he was a minus (-2). Almost every other year he was +20 and several years at +40.

        Subban is averaging a +2 over his first 5 seasons. Lidstrom averaged +26 on his first 5 seasons. Don’t ever mention Subban in the same breath as one of the best ever.

      • c9castine - Aug 3, 2014 at 5:30 PM

        is that seriously all you got? gonna have to do better.

        ive said this a million times, plus/minus numbers typically only catch my attention if they are much different than most of their team, or the number is extreme one way or the other.

      • broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 3, 2014 at 6:12 PM

        -8 is pretty god damned extreme for a $7.5 million “elite” (snickers) defenseman.

  5. mzim2756 - Aug 2, 2014 at 8:09 PM

    McDonough is better and makes half. Subban had major defensive lapses in the Ranger series

    • c9castine - Aug 2, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      every defenseman who played this season and in the playoffs had “major defensive lapses”…its what hockey is.

      giving and taking away. hockey. and at the end of the day subban wins more of those battles than he loses. same with drew doughty and kris letang…thats the way these guys play. fast, hard, risky, skilled…sometimes the completely blow it but more often than that they are making plays in all zones of the ice.

      • broadstreetbeatdown - Aug 2, 2014 at 10:38 PM

        Don’t ever put a guy like Drew Doughty into the same category as Subban and Letang. Doughty can actually play defense consistently while also having a tremendous offensive upside. Letang is a turnover machine, while Subban is a bit more responsible than him defensively.

      • c9castine - Aug 3, 2014 at 5:27 PM

        right lets completely ignore the well covered defensive blows he had not only all playoffs but specifically in the final series.

        thats what i mean. people choose to see what they want, and not what they dont. this whole new craze on what advanced stats tell you about a player and hes sitting there on the top of the list with every norris winner and candidate from the last 10 years and still it goes over your thick beaten in skull.

      • cgaz87 - Aug 2, 2014 at 10:57 PM

        OEL. One of best skaters. Damn smooth.

      • billiam55 - Aug 3, 2014 at 7:37 AM

        the fact is, subban isnt a shut down defenseman like mcdonagh.

      • c9castine - Aug 3, 2014 at 5:29 PM

        and mcdonagh isnt a game breaking, give me the puck so i can slam it in the net past tukka rask and the mighty bruins, take the team on my back and win a game put thousands of butts in seats defenseman like subban is.

        who the heck are you gonna pay more???

  6. lennaykekua - Aug 2, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    FPK………flopper, wuss. Overrated. Nice player that got some press for a bunch of reasons that have nothing to do with ability. Playing in Montreal certainly hasn’t hurt his exposure either. Yawn

  7. billiam55 - Aug 3, 2014 at 7:38 AM

    james, your not even gonna mention McDonaghs beautfiul contract?!?!

  8. killhowe - Aug 3, 2014 at 4:30 PM

    I like looking at Hedman’s contract after this signing. He’ll be due for a raise when his deal is over but for now it looks great in the books. 9 mill cap hit is pretty huge but I do think that any team would have paid the same for him.

  9. jkaflagg - Aug 3, 2014 at 6:05 PM

    Drew Doughty still has his share of WTF moments (including a few in the SCF), but at the end of the day he controls play like few others – in both the LA Cup wins, the opponents played hard, but you can make a case that the difference was Devils or Rangers simply didn’t have a Drew Doughty….the defenseman who can control the play in all situations is the most valuable commodity in hockey, even more than the great goalie or great goal scorer.

    PK Subban is not Drew Doughty, but he has the potential to reach that level; and that makes his contract quite reasonable….he’ll make more per year than Weber, Keith or Doughty, but that is to be expected; can anyone tell me when salaries went down over the years rather than up ? Give the Habs credit for recognizing this guy’s value and locking him up; he and Price give the Habs their Quick & Doughty, now they need to find their Kopitar…..

  10. isphet71 - Aug 3, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    No Kronwall?

  11. skoivu10 - Aug 3, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    Why is someone paying Wisniewski that much? I’m an Anaheim fan. We had him at one point and other than a couple good goals, he did nothing for us.

  12. Hard to BeLeaf - Aug 3, 2014 at 10:54 PM

    Shea Weber’s and Ryan Suter’s deals look like absolute steals now. Signed for longer and for less than Subban, both are better all round dmen too.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. S. Bennett (1236)
  2. P. Rinne (1233)
  3. D. Alfredsson (1228)
  4. D. Kuemper (1211)
  5. J. Drouin (1171)