Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in 1998, defenseman Andrei Markov began his NHL career with the Habs in 2000, and hopes to finish it in Montreal as well. Markov is respected in the world of hockey, and especially by his teammates and coaching staff. A fan favorite, he is solid and his hockey sense is keen.
After his knee injury in the 2010 playoffs, he was re-injured in November of the following season, underwent knee surgery and was sidelined for the rest of the season. He inked a three-year deal with the Habs in June of 2011, raising many eyebrows as to how he would look when returning after the long recuperation. He would only return in March of 2012 where he got an assist in the team’s win against the Vancouver Canucks.
He came back to Montreal after the 2012 lockout, having played in his native Russia while the NHL was dark, and played a strong season, on the ice for all 48 games. He scored 10 goals that season, and racked up 30 points in total. He earned the informal fan-given nickname “General,” with his leadership, his calm demeanor, and his strong showing.
This past season was no different. Markov had a 43-point season, responsible for some beautiful goals and many superb assists and has remained healthy throughout. In fact, he has missed only one regular-season game in the past two years.
There was fear about the “glass knee,” however, the knee has held up well and he is now in contract negotiations with the team.
As per usual, Habs management is tight-lipped about Markov’s future. He has made no secret of the fact that he would like to finish his career in Montreal. Turning 37 years old this coming December, his next contract is likely to be his last.
Of course, rumors are flying. “He’s close!” “He’s nowhere near close.” “Markov is signing with Montreal!” “There’s no news yet.”
Most rumors are about the dollar amount and length of the contract, not whether he will get one at all. It’s been said that he wants three years, and that the team wants one at a time. Again, all unsubstantiated.
Two other blue-line fan favorites are up for contracts with the Habs: P.K. Subban and, should the team decide to sign him, Mike Weaver. But midst the rumblings about other players, Markov is in everyone’s sights.
There are many who do not feel he should be signed to a long contract. They cite the knee, the age, and the streaky performance based on playoffs (10 points in 17 games). But I believe Markov should get the rumored three-year contract he is asking for, based on how solid he is, with no sign of slowing down. He is a playmaker and strong defenseman. And when Markov shows up to a game, he makes the difference.
Despite the team’s poor power play showing this season, the Habs are, no doubt, stronger with Markov on the man-advantage than without him. When paired with Subban, they had impressive powerplay numbers. He is also known for his reliability on the penalty kill.
It’s important to have experience on the blue line. As talented as Weaver and Subban are, along with Alexei Emelin and Josh Gorges, no one has the kind of experience and leadership as Markov. It shows, no matter who he is paired with, as he takes charge when needed. Gorges — rumored to be a future captain of the team — also has a calm demeanor and leadership qualities, but at age 29, and five fewer NHL years than Markov, he is still not of the caliber one sees in Markov.
I believe Markov will get a contract that will compel him to sign. I doubt GM Marc Bergevin will try to sell him short, with the history and numbers to back up the loyalty shown Markov to date. It would be a shocking development should Markov part ways with the Canadiens at this point in his career, having played all his NHL years with this team.
It is also very likely that Markov would be snapped up by another team, with his terms met, should the Habs not sign him. Do the Canadiens really want to lose a player like Markov? I don’t believe so.
But as always, rumors are going to fly until the Canadiens make their announcement sometime before preseason training begins.