Howls and scorn and hue and cry greeted Montreal GM Marc Bergevin when his beloved Habs opened the season without their best defenseman, P.K. Subban. The fancystatsosphere was chuckling at Bergevin's stubbornness - why would he hold the line like this on his best young player? Who was going to sign Subban to an offer sheet to relieve the Habs of their terrible burden? Finally, PK and Montreal agreed to a 2 year deal that's incredibly cheap, and somehow stat geeks still yelled - Bergevin was alienating his best player, he had no reason to give out such an inexpensive contract, etc. etc.
P.K. Subban's contract ends when he is 25 years old, with 2 years of RFA eligibility left. He's having yet another great season - not just by microstats either. He's at nearly a point per game, and up above 3 shots per game. Skeptics will once again argue that the Habs are letting Subban drive his price up substantially for his next contract - perhaps they are right.
Yet one thing the 8 year Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf contracts drive home - it is damned expensive to let players get close to unrestricted free agency. Perry and Getzlaf are both 28 years old - their contracts will end when they are 36. We know forwards peak at around age 25 (there's a better link for that for sure, but rest assured it's true), so those contracts are likely to go real sour when Perry and Getzlaf are reaching their mid-30s. Now that teams can't reduce cap hit via long-tail contracts, they are going to have to choose when to offer their young franchise players an 8 year contract. If Subban gets an 8 year offer at the conclusion of this contract - and unless he gets injured or somehow regresses seriously, I don't see how he doesn't - that deal would bring him to age 33, with two years worth of RFA eligibility in the deal. PK couldn't use the threat of the market to drive up his price (unless he courted offer sheets) so the Habs could likely get a fairer price than if they had signed him to a 4 or 5 year deal this past off-season, then tried to re-sign him when he was approaching UFA. In that scenario, he would've been able to use the market's price against Montreal, and his contract would've lasted until he was at least 35. Now this claims that Norris-nominated defensemen last a real long time, but even so I think Montreal will have a better sense of where PK is at when he's 33, and it will be easier to make a decision about whether to let him go or to re-sign him without him having had his value destroyed in the meantime.
I think it's going to be fascinating to see how teams use the possibility of the 8 year contract. We've seen 3 players approaching UFA get one - what about players who aren't?