Let me first start off by saying congratulations to Andrei Markov for officially becoming a Canadian Citizen. Being Canadian is a privilege and honor. Generally speaking Canadians are adored, respected and beloved worldwide and Markov personifies all of these traits to a T. So congrats to you Andrei!
After amassing 15 points in 43 games playing center for the Voskresensk Khimik, Markov was drafted 162nd overall in the sixth round of the 1998 entry draft. Despite being drafted as a center, both the Habs management and Moscow Dynamo saw more potential for Markov as a defenseman.
Very few players are able to successfully make this transition however, and Markov not only met this challenge but appeared to thrive netting 21 points in 38 games in his first season with Moscow.
He we are ten years later, and he is the longest serving current Hab and one of the most consistent and productive blue liners the team has ever had.
Since the 2006 campaign, Markov has seen his offensive production steadily increase. He has gone from the 20th most productive D-man in the NHL to 17th in 2007 to 6th in 2008 to 2nd in 2009.
Unfortunately Markov only played 40 games in 2010 otherwise we would have seen him in the top-five once again. Based on his 40 game pace, if healthy he would have finished as the third highest scoring blueliner with 62 points.
This top offensive blueliner is also the catalyst of one of the best power plays in the NHL, helping the Habs to have one of the top-five powerplay units in four of the past five seasons. This includes a stints as the No.1 ranked PP unit in both 2007 to 2008.
With this success comes a hefty price tag, however.
With a cap hit of $5.75 million per season, No.79 is the 11th highest paid d-man in the game, the second highest paid player on the team, and his contract comes to an end at the conclusion of the coming season.
So what does management do with one of the top-five offensive blueliners in the game? A player who is perhaps the best catalyst for any powerplay in the league, who can play 25-plus minutes a game and who can contain pretty much any forward in the game?
Does Pierre Gauthier offer him a contract extension? If so does he offer more money to retain his rights or do we get hometown discount? Or, do we go the unpopular route and consider trading this superstar?
Let’s be honest, there are no easy answers here.
If management decides that he should be re-signed then I, for one, will be happy.
Markov is one of those guys you simply cannot help but cheer for. He is a quiet leader who produces and gives it his all, year in and year out. He has embraced this city and our culture and the fans have reciprocated. That being said, I honestly think that the best thing for the future of the team would be to part with him right now.
Now before I get chastised for this thought process let me explain myself.
For starters, I like Markov and would love to see him retire as a Hab but the NHL is a business and sometimes in business, you have to make tough decisions.
So, with that in mind, here are the reasons I would let him go:
For at least a year now, if not longer, the NHL rumour boards have been full of banter of Tomas Kaberle being traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Recent rumors have the Leaf headed to Philadelphia along with a mid-level prospect in exchange for James Van Riemsdyk (JVR) and Brayden Coburn.
I’ve even heard rumours that San Jose would be willing to part with Devon Setoguchi and a pick or that Los Angeles would be willing to exchange Jack Johnson.
Kaberle is a good offensive D-man but he has never led his team to a top ranked powerplay unit, he does not play against the oppositions best and in the past five years, only one time has he finished higher than the ninth ranked offensive D-man.
So I ask you this: If Kaberle could fetch this sort of return, what could Markov get?
The Habs need cap flexibility.
The team has some major gaps that still need filling but simply do not have the cap space to do so. With the exception of Andrei Kostitsyn and Benoit Pouliot, our top six forwards are all 5’11 or smaller and our D-core is aging and slowing.
Gauthier has accomplished much this offseason but considering how tight the Habs are against the cap, his limitations are obvious.
Trading Markov could address both the need for size and cap space.
Hmmm...what sounds better? Markov on the blueline or JVR, Coburn and still $2 million in cap space?
There was fear that this team simply could not win without Mo.79 in the lineup. That fear seems to have disappeared, however.
Somehow when Markov went down to injury in the second round of 2010 Playoffs courtesy of a Matt Cooke, the team pulled together and beat the defending cup champion Penguins in seven games.
They were able to achieve this because of a total group effort. That, coupled with the insertion of the AHL All-rookie team member and President’s Award recipient, PK Subban, was able to put the Habs over the edge.
PK is destined for top minutes with the Habs in the coming season and will surely have an impact as Markov recovers from injuries.
If the Canadiens can win without him in the lineup—and with his contract still counting towards the cap—imagine what they can do with the flexibility that his trade would bring?
Markov currently makes $5.75 million a season and will be a hot commodity at season's end.
Will he be looking at Phaneuf type of money? Perhaps even using Timonen as a comparable?
Each of these guys make more than $6.0 million per year and it can be argued that neither is as important to their respective team as Markov is to the Habs.
My guess is that he will be looking for an increase.
We have a hard time juggling a $5.75 million per year contract so imagine trying to do the same with a bigger cap hit?
Like I said, I know my choice will be unpopular and I know that trading a top 10 D-man in NHL can backfire.
If I'm Gauthier I'm not going out to make a deal simply for the sake of making a deal, because having Markov on the team, injured or not, is a good thing.
If, however, the Kaberle rumours are in fact true then Gauthier would be foolish not to shop No.79 because this team could look a heck of a lot deeper in all positions if we completed a transaction of this magnitude.
Imagine a roster which looked like this:
And, we'd still have more than $3 million in cap space available!
So what do you think? Keep Markov or trade him?
Willey was the shinning light among the wicked growing up as the lone Habs fan in Toronto. Pray to Holy Ghosts of the old forum and all shall be answered I was told, and just like that my family was transferred back to Montreal and away from the damned. Olé Olé Olé.
Monday, July 26, 2010