P.K. Subban said over and over again that he wanted to remain a Montreal Canadien. He said over and over again that he wanted to stay there for a long time, and when you're a restricted free agent (emphasis on restricted), you basically lose all of your leverage the second you don't want to leave town.
The only fear a general manager, in this case Habs GM Marc Bergevin, faces in an RFA negotiation is that the player will sign an offer sheet from another club. That offer sheet could be the ticket out of town, or it could be the massive uptick in price that stymies the club's efforts to lock in their RFA at a reasonable rate.
In a normal year, management also faces a Dec. 1 deadline to sign their RFA's before they're forced to sit for the season. It puts pressure on both the club and the player to come to terms before that date, but with the lockout this season, there was no deadline.
Subban could have held out as long as he wanted -- or, at least til Dec. 1, 2013 -- but in this case, the Habs had more reason to stick to their guns. With Subban on record that he wants to stay in Montreal and with it pretty evident post-lockout that he wanted back on the ice, it was only a matter of time before the Habs' best defenseman gave in and signed on the club's terms.
The second Subban made it pretty clear that he wanted to stick around, Bergevin knew he could get him locked in at a low price for the next few seasons. That's exactly what happened Monday night. Subban ended his holdout and signed a two-year, $5.75 million deal, also erasing the growing fears of Habs fans that Subban could leave town. It's just a slight $250,000 more than what Bergevin offered Subban months ago before the lockout even began.
There's no dancing around it: Bergevin won the deal flat out. He stuck to his guns and used the leverage he had over Subban and agent Don Meehan to his advantage. And better yet for the Habs, when the deal expires after the 2013-14 season, Subban will still be a restricted free agent.
A long-term deal with the Canadiens will likely be worked out at some point for Subban -- perhaps in the very near future, considering the time frame -- but for now, Bergevin's paying his best defenseman like he's a No. 4 defenseman. That's just quality GM work, and something that has to be a sight for sore eyes given Montreal's recent past.