Each day from now until July 1, the day free agency begins, Sarah Baicker and Tim Riday will profile some of the NHL's top impending free agents and project their likelihood of signing with the Flyers.
Last team: Montreal Canadiens
2013-14 cap hit: $2.875 million
Subban is a restricted free agent. That means if talks between Subban's camp and Montreal carry into July, the Canadiens have the right to match any offer he receives. Subban, the 2013 James Norris Memorial Trophy winner and 2014 Olympic Gold Medalist for Canada, will be an interesting storyline to follow this offseason. He sat out the first six games of the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign while negotiating a contract with Montreal. He eventually agreed to a two-year deal worth $5.75 million on Jan. 28, 2013 and has since molded himself into one of the NHL's best offensive defenseman with a big upside.
Blessed with outstanding skating ability and a cannon of a shot, Subban has become a very dangerous player while on the man advantage. Alongside veteran Andrei Markov, Subban formed one of the best power-play tandems in the NHL last season as they combined for 44 PP points from the blue line. Subban is also an emerging shutdown defender. He has a tendency to run around his own end and sometimes tries to do too much with the puck. But he is a fierce competitor and can get under opponents' skin with his physical play and dazzling end-to-end rushes.
Yes, please. Subban is everything the Flyers have been lacking on defense for a handful of seasons now -- he's fast, he's strong, he's got offensive upside. This is the kind of player I would love to see added to the roster. His physical game fits the Flyers' style, he's solid in all areas of the ice and, perhaps best of all, he's only 25. The problem here, as it as been all along (and, yes, I'm getting your e-mails; I know it's frustrating to read about players that are long shots simply because of money problems) is that Subban is going to make a lot of cash wherever he lands next season. Since he's a restricted free agent, I do think he'll stay in Montreal. But whether or not he does, he's going to demand a significant raise over that $2.875 million cap hit he had last season. It's simply unrealistic to believe the Flyers can clear out enough space to afford him. There's no doubt they have interest, but with the big, long-term, hard-to-trade contracts they're loaded up with, the Flyers would have to work some magic to clear room to fit in in. And don't forget the draft picks they'd have to give up to acquire him because of that RFA status. Too bad, he'd be a great asset.
Subban is going to get paid. The question is: who will write the check? The Canadiens should make it their first priority to re-sign Subban ASAP. If negotiations drag on, they could find themselves in the same situation Nashville was in with Shea Weber back in 2012. We all know how that story ended. Subban has a Norris Trophy, gold medal and, most importantly, leverage. He was spectacular in the 2014 postseason for the Habs and has matured greatly since coming into the league. He'll likely command a long-term deal in the $7 million to $10 million range per season. That brings us to the salary cap-strapped Flyers. There's no way they'd be able to afford to offer Subban that type of money without seriously shaking up the roster. Then there's always the possibility Montreal could match whatever offer is sent Subban's way. There's no arguing Subban is exactly the type of No. 1 defenseman the Flyers have been searching for since Chris Pronger went down. And there's no arguing Subban's game is almost a perfect fit for the Flyers' style of hockey. But it's unrealistic to think the Flyers will make a play for Subban, even though the franchise hasn't been afraid to go after restricted free agents in the past. Subban has expressed interest in returning to Montreal, so my guess is he takes a sizable sum out of the Canadiens' bank account.