Markov Returns – Canadiens Defense Gets Deeper

Andrei Markov

It only took 90 minutes to pass after Pierre Gauthier gave his press conference tonight, before the news came crashing over the airwaves.

Pointing backwards, to last years late calander signing of Carey Price, Gauthier voiced the opinion that there was no need to be concerned with the timing of inking a deal with Markov.

I guess he knew something we didn’t! But that’s his job.

So the news that we’ve all been holding our breath over, debating, or arguing about is now official. Andrei Markov will return to his spot on the defensive unit of the Montreal Canadiens, and for a nice chunk of change.

Markov’s agent, Don Meehan, insured that he got the best possible deal for his client. The deal terms revealed, show a 3 year – $5.75M per year kitty. That means that Markov will be on the Canadiens roster through the 2014 season, costing the franchise a total of $17.25M.

This brings an end to all the speculation that has been in the air since the Habs season came to a close on Wednesday April 11th. Since that date, fans and MSM alike have been giving their 2 cents as to if, and for how much, the blueliner should be paid to return to La Flanelle.

Twitter feeds exploded after the news hit the public tonight. Hockey web pages filled up with opinion. Many fans are of the belief that this contract is a year too long, while others think the monetary amount is far too high for an athlete who hasn’t seen a full season of work in the past 2 years. As a matter of fact, Markov only saw 7 games last season.

Back to back ACL injuries sidelined the defensive superstar, forcing him to undergo 2 major reconstructive knee surgeries within two years. So the speculation that Markov is not worth the contract he’s just been awarded, is understandable.

But let’s look at this from an unbiased perspective.

Markov has been a force to be reckoned with since he first joined the Montreal Canadiens back in the 2000 – 2001 season. He has always shown great vision, and strong puck handling skills, even early on. Before playing on North American ice, he was considered one of the best defensemen in the Russian Hockey League.

But it was in the post lockout era of the NHL that Markov began to really show his skills. After returning to the Montreal Canadiens, having played for the Moscow Dynamo during the lockout, the star defenseman had a breakout year (2005-2006) with 46 points in 67 games. He returned the following year – topping those numbers with 49 points. Enough to warrant him a 4 year deal (signed in May 2007), ensuring he would remain a Canadien through 2011.

He did not disappoint. Playing his first full 82 game season in 2007, Markov shone with 16 goals, 42 assists and his first trip to the NHL All Star Game as a starter. The following year was no different, as he amassed 12 goals and 52 assists (his career high), and established himself as one of the premiere defensemen in the league.

His skills as a player run deep. He has been the quarterback of the Habs power play during his time in Montreal, but he’s also proven to be one of the better two way defensemen in the league – bar none. His veteran leadership skills have been an integral part in developing younger players, and his leadership off the ice is more than commendable.

But where does that leave us with the recent signing of this superstar?

His past two seasons have seen him sidelined with various injuries. A laceration after a collision with Carey Price had him out of the line-up in October of 2009. After a remarkable recovery, and an early re-insertion into the line-up, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins ended his season during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After surgery, and extensive rehabilitation, he returned to the Canadiens blue line only to suffer a knee on knee collision with Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes – ending his comeback and sending him once again to go under the knife.

Despite the bad luck and the extensive injuries, Markov at 80% is better than all the others at 100%. It was a no brainer that Gauthier needed to secure a new contract with Markov, and ensure that he remain with le Bleu Blanc et Rouge.

Am I happy with the dollar amount? Not really. Am I happy with the term? I’m a bit worried on that angle as well. But reality states this. If for some terrible reason, Andrei Markov is re-injured again, he’ll be put on the LTIR list and his salary will come off our books.

On the other hand, if he is fully recovered and stays healthy, our defensive unit will be a powerhouse to contend with. One that is truly Stanley Cup worthy. His ability, along with his leadership (paired with Hal Gill), will be more than we could ask for. His mentoring skills for younger players like PK Subban will be indispensible.

Let’s not forget what he’s capable of.

In the end, the gamble is worth it. This is a talent that could tear us apart if it was left to be signed to any other team in the NHL. I’ve always known that Markov was a franchise player for the Canadiens.

And today – on June 23rd, 2011 – Pierre Guathier proved me correct. Now let’s hope that Markov can do the same for him.


About Iain Carnegie (@emann_222 on Twitter)

I have followed the Montreal Canadiens for over twenty years, even while living in the heart of Toronto. I spent 5 years in the mecca of hockey, moving to the Plateau region of Montreal in the summer of 2009, I've been writing extensively on the Habs franchise at Bleed Blue Blanc Rouge BBBR has now moved to it's new home here at WordPress, , where content continues to matter.
This entry was posted in 2011 - 2012 NHL Season, Eastern Conference, Montreal Canadiens, NHL, NHL Cap, NHL Events, Northeastern Division and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Markov Returns – Canadiens Defense Gets Deeper

  1. vivian says:

    Great blog Iain! I have to say that I was worried about this whole deal. I don’t want Markov gone but at the same time don’t want him getting injured again. You reassured me from what I read about his talent as a player so I have faith in him once again. I like the fact that they can put him on LTIR & free up cap space if he is (knock on wood) reinjured. I know he is probably worth about 7M (one of the best Dmen in the league) so to have him at 5.25M is a steal if he remains healthy & puts up the great numbers he has in the past. I’m looking forward to seeing him in action. Go Habs Go!

    • Yeppers – I was pretty nervous about this deal – even while it was in the making.

      I wanted a max 2 year deal worth 3.5 just because I’m greedy. What I really wanted was a one year deal with a conditional extension based on an injury free year, and then throw the money at him. But that wasn’t going to happen. Such is the business of hockey!

      You and I will just have to keep our fingers crossed, and with any luck – he’ll show us all why we fell in love with his play in the first place.

      Go Habs Go!!!!

  2. ♡ A says:

    I’m not going to lie here. I am not thrilled with this deal in the least. I think 5.75/3 yrs is a bit much. I would have given 2 years at 8-9 mil. Yes, i get the whole ‘discount’ thing, but when you played what? 25 games out of 180 in 2 years, that’s a problem.
    Again. i know the whole, ‘if he’s out, he’s on LTIR’ but we all saw where Wiz is now right? UNSIGNED. same with Sopel, Mara, ETC. We can’t keep plugging in the holes. If he stays healthy (and lord i hope he does), i will be thrilled. But if he doesn’t, I will be saying ‘told you so’ come november.

    • Well I can’t even compare Mara or Sopel to Markov – not that I’m saying you are. But Wisniewski is the closest thing to Markov that we’ve seen. I’ve known since the last game of the playoffs that Mara and Sopel werenot coming back. That’s the nature of the business.

      Wisniewski is going to be commanding some serious coin this year though, and I just don’t see us having room for him. If he does stay – it will certainly not happen before the 1st of July. Without doubt he’ll be looking to get as much money as possible so he’ll be shopping himself.

      I’m not losing site that Markov has had a couple of bad years, but Wisniewski has also been the victim of injury and come back. Markov will do the same – so you don’t have to worry about November =)

  3. @Sramgotra70 says:

    I think it’s a risky deal, but I think it’s a good one! I do recall(not sure whom) a reporter, maybe on HNIC? -speaking of Markov’s return, and that this surgery was/is supposed to have corrected it so that he’d be even stronger… Not sure if that’s possible, but why be pessimistic? If it’s true! Then WooHoo!!! IMHO, it’s a fair deal… He deserves atleast that! And like you said even at 80% he’s a badass!!! Obviously, his agent is going to hold out for the most possible, and makes him happy! Markov, strikes me as a dude with character, and will live up to, and beyond the 5.75 million/yr! Maybe to many Pierre G. is an idiot! Not to me… He’s made pretty good decisions thus far, and I’m sure he wants to win just as much as we do!!!! Now, let’s see what happens to Gomez!! I will hold off judgement on P.G, until then… D’oh!!!!!

    • Well – I don’t know that they could have made him stronger than what he was. If so – we might have to change the name on his jersey to “Steve Austin” =)

      But the reality is – Markov has been here for 10 years, put his heart and soul into playing here. He’s one of, if not the best all round defensemen in the NHL, and he wants to stay here.

      His hard work over the off-season will pay off. If Wisniewski can come back strong after 3 knee surgeries, then Markov can as well.T
      tally agree with you on Gauthier. I get sick of the whining about him He’s built us a strong team. Yes – there’s still more work to do – but if his past track record says anything about where we’re headed, I’m content.

  4. I think this is a good deal. I was a proponent of a 1 or 2 year deal, but the fact is that Markov is one of the league’s dominant defensemen, and we felt his absence last year. 5.75 a year is a bit high, but comparable to some of the signings of late.
    I don’t think we can fool ourselves into thinking that we could have a chance without a D of Markov’s caliber. The rest of our D is coming together with Gorges (if he signs), PK, Gill, (Yemelin – if he lives up to expectations and doesn’t go back to the KHL), Weber, and also Spacek and apparently Hamrlik (who is allegedly in contract talks).
    Wiz was a great addition last year and has helped offensively and on the PP, brining a great sho and toughness on the blue line. Sopel and Mara were honest players, although I thought that Sopel was overrated and did not make a huge impact (yes, he was injured for part of that time). Mara did what we expected, and I wouldn’t mind having him as a 7th D for those games you know the guys are just going to get hammered. With White in front and Mara at the blue line, the team commands a little more respect.
    Overall, I’m happy to see Markov back and you’ve managed to alleviate my fears concerning his health and cap space… Ironically, everyone is clamoring for Gorges to sign, and he has the same knee issues as Markov. Wiz had 3 operations on his knees and did just fine. Welcome back Marky!

    • Well Chris, I’ve been struggling with what I wanted to see with this signing, but the more I talked to other fans like yourself – and gave it some serious thought, this seems to be the best choice.

      You’re right when you say that we need him in order to have a shot at making a Cup run. He’s the backbone of our D unit, and I’m glad he’s back. Yeah – it’s a bit richer than we hoped for, but the more I think about the term, the more I’m ok with it. Most of us want him to retire here. PG and the franchise have shown a tremendous amount of faith. I have no doubt that Markov (being the tremendous human being that he is) will reward us with the strongest work ethic we’ve ever seen from him.

      I cringe every time I think of seeing him in any other jersey than the CH.

  5. 22chill22 says:

    It’s not surprising how jittery so many people seem to be about the length of the Markov deal. We’ve become used to having so many injuries over the past while that now we find it difficult to be happy with the fact that we’ve just locked up one of the finest D-men in the league for three years because he’s been through the same surgery that countless other players have recovered from fully! I hope Iain is wrong about us not being able to sign Wisniewski — he’s makes a real contribution to the team with his grit and his gorgeous shot — but I think he’s probably right and Wisniewski will walk. In any case, and as the fine post above points out, even if Markov is not 100% of what he used to be (and there really is no reason at all why he shouldn’t be 100%!) he’s still a very solid player. Maybe I’m the only one, but I was glad to see three years instead of two.

    • Well, like I just commented to Chris, the more I think about the term, the more I’m ok with it. My kneejerk reaction was to say “WHAT??? 3 Years???” But if it’s two, then why not three? Don’t we all want him here till he retires? I know I do so the term is not as scary as I first thought.

      As far as Wisniewki goes, there is no doubt in my mind that he’ll be shopping himself in order to secure a big contract. I don’t know that he cares where he plays, as long as the money’s right. Having said that – I don’t mean that he doesn’t want to play here, but he isn’t the same as Markov in that sense.

      My hat’s off to PG for ensuring that I don’t have to see Markov skate on the ice in any other uniform than La Flanelle. The coming weeks will be interesting in regards to who’s left to sign, and who’s available to get.

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