MONTREAL - Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin met with the media Tuesday afternoon to answer some questions, but he wasn’t able to answer the No. 1 query being posed by fans: What’s happening with defenceman P.K. Subban?
Bergevin was in Brossard to discuss the six-year, $27-million contract extension power forward Max Pacioretty agreed to late Monday night and described the 23-year-old as part of the team’s core of young players.
It didn’t take long for the media to ask about negotiations between the Canadiens and Subban, who is a restricted free agent. Subban was the team leader in terms of ice time last season, but Bergevin stopped short of including him as part of that young core.
“He’s a good young player,” Bergevin conceded. “There’s a lot of things that come into play, (but) there’s potential there for sure.”
Bergevin’s comments would suggest there are still some doubts about Subban despite his on-ice performance and his strong desire to play in Montreal. Those doubts are reflected in the negotiations to date.
Bergevin wouldn’t go into details on the talks, other than to say they have been cordial.
“Out of respect for P.K. and his agent (Don Meehan), I don’t want to talk about it,” Bergevin said. “It’s an ongoing process. We’ll get around to it.”
What we can tell you is that the length of the contract appears to be a sticking point. Subban is coming out of a three-year, entry-level contract, and the Canadiens would like to see him sign a short-term deal. This is the same scenario the club followed with Pacioretty and goaltender Carey Price, who signed a six-year deal this summer.
Pacioretty, who has one season remaining on a two-year deal, said he was hoping for a long-term extension.
“It was something that wasn’t available with the old management situation,” Pacioretty said on a conference call from his home in New Canaan, Conn. “I didn’t know if the new GM was willing to negotiate mid-contract. As soon as they said they wanted to get a deal done, obviously I wanted to play in Montreal and wanted to get it done as soon as possible.”
“We felt he was part of our core moving forward,” Bergevin said of Pacioretty. “He showed character with what happened. He got hurt and came back strong. He cares about his teammates. We wanted to tie him up. We figured it was a good move for us and he felt the same way.”
Pacioretty was seriously injured when Boston defenceman Zdeno Chara steered him into a stanchion at the Bell Centre in March 2011. Pacioretty suffered a concussion and a broken vertebra, but rebounded last season when he scored 33 goals and was the Canadiens’ leading point-getter with 65. At the end of the season, he was presented with the NHL’s Masterton Memorial Trophy for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game.
“He’s got size; he’s a power forward,” Bergevin said. “He has determination. He’s young. He won the Masterton, and that goes a long way to show how he bounced back. For us moving forward, that’a a key.”
When asked about Pacioretty’s potential, Bergevin said: “I think he’s just scratching the surface. He’s still 23. He works out; he’s committed. We like what we saw last year. I wasn’t here, but talking with our guys, they felt comfortable and I feel comfortable giving him six years.”
The club has made similar long-term commitments to Price and Josh Gorges, who was signed by former GM Pierre Gauthier.
Bergevin said of the players’ signing those long-term deals: “These good young players, who are among the best in their positions, want to be in Montreal for a long time. It shows our fans and the city of Montreal that this is where they want to play and be successful. I believe when you identify the players you like, you do everything you can to keep them.”
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