Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Maybe Tyler Myers contract wasn't so foolish afterall

Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com

Montreal Canadiens defenseman PK Subban just got himself one helluva contract extension yesterday.

The deal keeps him in Montreal for 8 years at an extremely high price: $72M.

The $9M average is third on the list behind Alexander Ovechkin ($9.538M) and Evgeni Malkin ($9.5M) and places the 25 yr. old Subban above Sidney Crosby ($8.7M) and Corey Perry ($8.625M.)

Amongst defenseman Subban rose far above Shea Weber ($7.85,) Ryan Suter ($7.5M) and Kris Letang ($7.25M.)

It's some pretty lofty company for Subban.

And it's a pretty strong commitment made by the Canadiens and their GM, Marc Bergevin.

That the Subban camp smoked Bergevin in the process is not to be denied. Two years ago the Canadiens could have re-signed Subban for roughly $25M over five year.

In those two short years, Subban picked up a Norris Trophy (2012-13) and an Olympic Gold (2014.) He upped his point production and TOI in the regular season plus got even better during the playoffs to the tune of seven goals and 18 points in 22 games and over 27 min./game this past post season.

Hindsight is what it is, and no one can blame anyone for how things unfolded in this case. What it does do, though, is show just how precarious a GM's position is when projecting the potential of a star/superstar player and when said player may breakout.

When former GM Darcy Regier re-signed D, Tyler Myers to a 7yr./$38.5M contract extension before the start of the 2011 season, he was jumping the gun on a potential breakout season for Myers. One like Subban just had.

Myers already had a Calder Trophy under his belt for the 2009-10 season and wasn't that far removed from the Norris candidates that season.

During his first two professional seasons, Myers logged top-pairing minutes and scored double-digits in goals both seasons.

Instead of a bridge contract like Bergevin did with Subban, Regier went all-in by signing Myers to that very lucrative, 7yr. extension.

Since then, Myers' career has taken a couple of steps backwards, just like the team. And, just like the Sabres, he seems to be on the upswing.

Through fits and starts, the NHL salary cap has gone from $64.3M for 2011-12 to $69M in 2014-15. Myers cap-hit represented about 8.5% of the Sabres payroll at the time while Subban's cap-hit takes up 13% of this season's payroll.

That Subban is an elite defenseman right now is indisputable. And with the departure of Brian Gionta (to Buffalo) he'll be in line for captaincy of the Habs.

Should the salary cap keep trending upwards, two or three years down the road a top-pairing, "franchise defenseman" like Subban or Weber or Suter will be commanding $8-9M per year.

In that context, your second-pairing, #2/3 defenseman will be somewhere in the $5M range, pretty much where Myers is right now.

Two years from now is when the Sabres and new GM Tim Murray will need to make a decision. Myers has a NMC/limited NTC that kicks in for the 2016-17 season.

At that time Myers will have already been paid $28M for those four years, making him very moveable should the team not see him as a part of the future. Or, should he continue his improvement and top out as no more than a #2/3 d-man, it will be right in line with the going rate.

The Subban contract just raised the bar for defensemen and only hindsight can ultimately declare a winner in that saga.

Both Bergevin and Regier used their best judgment as to the proper course of action and it will take time for all of it to play out.

Even though the Myers' contract may not become a steal as some originally thought, his size and raw talent should see him slotted as no less than a second-pairing d-man with top-pairing potential. And his $5.5M cap-hit will in the very least be just about right. Making the contract, in hindsight, not so foolish after all.

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