Andrei Markov is no longer a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
That’s a sentence Habs fans have dreaded over the past few years. It was inevitable, but the hope was that he’d finish out his hockey career with the team he dedicated his life to.
He will be playing hockey next year, but not with Montreal. He’ll be joining AK Bars Kazan of the KHL instead.
Yesterday, the Habs announced that they’d officially not bring back the two-time NHL All-Star after playing in 990 games over 16 seasons with the club. The team drafted him in the sixth round back in 1998 and ever since then, he proved himself to be a contender for 50 points from the back end year after year.
But with his contract up at the end of this past season, which saw his lowest point total since the lockout shortened 2012-2013 season (he was injured this year, to be fair), Markov was denied a chance to play one more year with the only NHL club he’s ever played for.
And frankly, if all his contract reports are true, it’s just stupid on the part of the Canadiens.
The team could afford him
“I was ready to stay in Montreal, I was ready and willing to sign a one-year deal. It didn’t work” – Andrei Markov. Boom goes the dynamite.
— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) July 27, 2017
From the offset, media reports said that Markov was looking to sign a two-year extension with the Canadiens worth $6 million a season. For a 38-year-old defenceman with previous knee issues, it’s fair to say that was a little much for the Russian blueliner.
Then, after not signing with the club, Markov revealed that he would have accepted a one-year deal to stay with the club.
One. Single. Year. And they said no.
As it stands, the Canadiens have over $8 million in cap space, and with August around the corner, it’s unlikely the team is going to be shelling out much more money. Montreal’s most valuable assets, which include Carey Price, Shea Weber, and Jonathan Drouin, are already locked up, so that’s no longer an issue.
Montreal surely could afford him, and with Tomas Plekanec and his $6 million cap hit coming off the books after next season, the team would still not be hurting cap-wise.
The Canadiens don’t have a lot of great trade options due to unsuccessful drafts and the unlikely nature of players like Alex Galchenyuk and Max Pacioretty going anywhere.
This begs the question: what exactly is Montreal planning to do with that cap room?
They haven’t properly replaced him
— Christopher (@CHatzitoliosMTL) July 27, 2017
Face it, unless he turns his game around in a big way, Karl Alzner is not an adequate replacement for Andrei Markov.
Offensively, Markov has been a much stronger player throughout his career, posting a career 0.58 PPG average in nearly 1,000 games. Alzner, in 591 games? Only 117 points to show for.
Defensively, it can be argued, at least statistically, that the two defenders are closer to equal. But with a team that struggled to find offence last year, losing out on a guy who can record 40 points next year in return for a guy who records almost as many points a year as Markov gets goals in a season isn’t very appetizing.
Markov made a good pairing with Shea Weber, who, for once in his career, didn’t need to create most of his team’s offence. Alzner will likely find himself on Montreal’s second defensive pairing with either Mark Streit (who is 39) or Jordie Benn.
That’s good an all, but that’s not addressing your top defence pairing, which is exactly what Montreal needs to do right now. If Jakub Jerabek can fill the hole, then fantastic. But as it stands, the rookie is a wildcard.
Montreal is not a better team than they were with Markov there, and that’s scary.
He’s still a top defenceman in the NHL
“I’d like to thank the fans for supporting me for over the last 16 years. I will never forget you.” – Andrei Markov
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) July 27, 2017
Markov has never been a great skater, but you don’t play 16 years in the league if you can’t make up for it in other categories.
Only one current player in the entire NHL, Zdeno Chara, has more points than Markov as a defenceman, and Chara has played in 360 more games. Shea Weber, Brent Burns, and Duncan Keith will all need some spectacular seasons to catch up to what Markov has done in nearly 1000 games.
In terms of points per game, only six players have higher averages than Markov. What makes his numbers at this age impressive, though, is that the oldest player of those six, Mike Green, is still seven years younger than Markov.
Throughout his career, and even into his later years, he logged big minutes, didn’t cough up the puck often and acted as the team’s pillar on the back end for power plays. Nobody did it better than him, whether it was PK Subban, Sheldon Souray, or even Weber.
What exactly is Montreal going to do now?