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A refresher on Andrei Markov

  • I spend a great deal of my time on the internet reading about the Montreal Canadiens. One of the best parts about being a fan of a team like the Habs is that the fan base is so huge and knowledgeable that there simply isn’t a time when people aren’t talking about the team.  While most of the time I find the differing viewpoints interesting, there are times when I am dumbfounded by those few who feel passionately enough to express themselves online, and yet, not passionately enough to be informed.

    Over the course of the playoffs, and short post season there has been great debate in the many corners of the Habs universe about whether or not the Habs should re-sign Andrei Markov given his recent injuries. The play of James Wisniewski has accelerated the calls for the Habs’ management to walk away from the 32 year old Russian defender. The entire purpose of my post today is to show just how dumb a move that would be.

    First I need to deal with the obvious. Markov has been hurt.. A lot. 2 consecutive knee surgeries to go with a freak Achilles tendon injury have completely decimated Markov’s career since 2009.  If there is any apprehension among the fanbase about bringing #79 back to the club, this is certainly where it is merited. The fact is that Markov has played 52 of 164 regular season games for the Canadiens over the past two years. That is not good at all, and I can completely understand why there are those who cannot remove this factor from their view of the player.

    Still, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t point out that it wasn’t always like this.

    Since his first season with the Canadiens (which was split between the AHL and NHL) Markov has never played less than 67 Games in a season. After the lockout in 04-05, Markov played 67, 77, 82, and 78 regular season games – playing as the team’s #1 defenseman in all situations.

    During those four seasons Markov happened to put up points totals of: 46, 49, 58, and 64. In 09 when Markov played only 45 games, he was on pace for another 60+ point season.  So what you say? Here is a list of players and their point totals between the 05-06 season and Markov’s last full season of 08-09. For your convenience I’ve added their current contract numbers as a comparison:

    Niklas Lidstrom: 271 $6.2M

    Andrei Markov: 217 $5.75M

    Sergei Gonchar: 209 $5.5M

    Scott Neidermayer: 207 $6M (’09-’10)

    Chris Pronger: 206 $7.6M ($4.921 Cap hit until 2016-17!)

    Dan Boyle: 198 $6.66M

    As you can see by the numbers, Andrei Markov’s contract is among the most reasonable of the group of his comparable players. Certainly more so than Chris Pronger’s 35+ contract until 2017.

    If you still need proof that Andrei Markov was a MUST-sign for the Canadiens look at the graveyard of defensive partners that have played with Markov over the years that have gone on to be terribly over-priced, average at best defensemen for other teams! Rivet, Souray, Komisarek, Streit etc. How many players have lined up next to Markov and become stars only to falter once they were removed from #79′s side? Simply put, Markov makes those around him better. He’s among the league’s most under-rated defensemen – which is absolutely astounding considering he plays under the brightest lights in the sport.

    In the end, Markov’s current deal which will pay him $5.75M for the next 3 seasons is one of risk and reward. If Markov is hurt yet again, then the Canadiens will be stuck paying his salary and forced to find another defenseman who can fill his skates. While the possibility exists, for a team with as deep pockets as the Canadiens, this really is no risk at all. The advantage that Montreal has over small market teams is that they can afford to take a gamble. The payoff if Markov can stay health would be incredible because when healthy Markov is a top 5 defender in the league. To pay only $5.75M for a reasonable term for his services is remarkable, and is a great signing by Pierre Gauthier.

  1. #1 Senet1 says:
    June 24, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    I must admit when the cap was tighter I had my doubts about signing Markov, I have had his injury and it is difficult to function after surgery let lone two surgeries. I hope that his rehab has been good and he is able to perform at the top of his game. The one thing I always came back to was if we did not sign him and someone like Boston did I would be upset. So in the end I was a positive for signing him. Bobby Orr and Brad Park especially played on bad knees for a lot of years so hopefully Markov can too.

  2. #2 Avatar37 says:
    June 26, 2011 at 2:37 am

    I certainly did not require proof as to Markov’s importance to the Habs, one simply has to look at, prior to the last season, the Habs record of wins / losses with and without Markov in the lineup, and the difference is staggering. You are absolutely bang on when you say Markov makes everyone around him better. Want to ask why Gomez’ numbers sank last year? Look no further than to the absence of Markov. His ability to make passes out of his own zone is top in the league. His ability to QB the PP is also among the top in the league.

    While Souray had the hardest shot in the NHL while he played for our team, which lead to him setting the NHL record for PP goals scored by a defenseman during the regular season, a very impressive feat considering all the defensemen who have played before him, there is no question that Markov is a must-sign for the Habs, and that the threat from Markov opened up room for Souray to blast his shot. If Markov is healthy, I believe he makes us a superior team in the NHL, perhaps enough so to push us into a serious cup run. If he gets injured long term, then his salary comes off the cap and we can sign someone else, although I hesitate to say sign a replacement, as Markov is irreplaceable.

    The only players on that list that might come close to Markov are Lidstrom and Neidermeyer, and Neidermeyer isn’t playing anymore. Markov is certainly much better all around than Gonchar is, as his defensive numbers show, and better offensively than Pronger is. Markov truly is among the elite defensemen in the NHL, and we have him locked up for a very reasonable salary. I truly hope that, in the next 3 years, we can make that cup push, and signing Markov for $5.7 mil a year in part makes up for having Gomez’ overpaid contract on the books.

  3. #3 Senet1 says:
    June 27, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    Well a lot of the pundits think that with the higher cap that Gomez salary may be marketable now especially for those teams that need to add cap space to their roster at the same time as adding a player than can do the things that Gomez can to for a team. I am sure that our GM will be trying to trade Gomez and Spacek. Man there is 11M of cap space, could we go out and get a couple of players worth 4 or 5 M and still have some space left over.

  4. #4 Senet1 says:
    June 27, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    This is another reason why I feel we should do everything we can to sign Wiz to a multiple year contract of 5M.

  5. #5 Avatar37 says:
    June 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    I agree on Wiz, if he wants around $5 mil a year on an extended contract, I’d definitely offer it to him. Then again, he may want to hit the open market, so we’ll see what happens, I’d love to see him back, but not at a price tag of more than $5, $5.5 mil a year.

  6. #6 Mats Naslund says:
    June 29, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Our problem now is that with so many defensemen in the mold – I really doubt PG is looking at Wiz. Frankly it wouldn’t surprise me to find out the Habs made a few offers and realized that Wiz unless there is a quick announcement sometime in the next few days you can forget about it.

    Markov, Gill, Subban, Gorges, Yemelin, Spacek, Weber, Hamrlik, Wisniewski = too many defensman.

    Secondarily, there is critical need to add at least a piece on offense. Anthony Stewart wasn’t qualified and I would absolutely love to see him in our jersey.

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