Habs fans rejoice! Andrei Markov isn’t going anywhere.

By Sean Maxwell Garland, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONTREAL, QC. — Habs general manager Marc Bergevin began his off-season by re-signing Andrei Markov, locking up the long time Habs defenseman to a three-year contract. While Dale Weise may have been the start to the Habs re-signing phase, Markov is the first big fish to avoid testing the free agent pool on July 1st. The new deal will keep Markov with the team until he turns 38 years old. In all likelihood, he may retire then, if not earlier.

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Because Markov falls into the 35-years-old or over category, should he be injured or choose to retire before the contract expires, the $5.75-million cap hit will apply for the entire three year span. Considering Markov’s new contract will carry the same cap hit as before, Bergevin has done well to save the team some space for potential free agent signings. Or, Bergevin may choose to use some of the cap space to sign the Habs own potential unrestricted free agents, including Brian Gionta and Francis Bouillon. The Canadiens have close to $20-million in cap space, but must also sign P.K. Subban to a new contract.

While Subban is highly touted as a franchise player for the Habs, Markov was more of a priority to be re-signed. Considering all of the great players to play for the organization over their storied history, Markov has been an icon for this generation of Habs fans. Having played his entire career with the bleu-blanc-et-rouge, Markov is far more valuable to Marc Bergevin and Co. than just his on-ice performance. Over the years, throughout the team’s ups and downs, Markov has remained with the Canadiens. He has never been a part of the organization’s problems, only a solution. A cornerstone of the franchise since the early 2000s, the Russian blueliner has blossomed into a fantastic player for the Habs.

During the Canadiens’ turbulent years from 1999 to 2003, a span of four seasons in which the hockey club only qualified for the playoffs just once, Markov quietly emerged as an intriguing player. Making his Habs debut during the 2000-2001 season, Markov dressed for 63 games, scoring six goals and 23 points. The next season, Markov appeared in seven less games yet set a new career high in points with 24. The Canadiens qualified for the playoffs that year, a season famous for the return of then team captain Saku Koivu who battled abdominal cancer.

While the Canadiens spent a few years parting ways with various players, coaches and general managers, Andrei Markov never budged from the Habs blueline. A leader by example, Markov lets his play on the ice speak for itself. The defenseman is famous for his smooth two-line passes and surreal hockey sense. Markov has also proven over the years that he can chip in offensively, seeing his production increase with each passing season.

Markov, a player who has spent his entire career with the bleu-blanc-et-rouge, is far more valuable to Marc Bergevin and Co. than just his on-ice performance. Over the years, throughout the team’s ups and downs, Markov has remained with the Canadiens. He has never been a part of the organization’s problems, only a solution. A cornerstone of the franchise since the early 2000s, the Russian blueliner has blossomed into a fantastic player for the Habs and has carried the torch throughout.

The Canadiens selected Markov 162nd overall in 1998 and he is an example of the franchise’s ability to draft and develop players. P.K. Subban is beginning to show signs of becoming as important of a figure as Markov is to the team, but lacks the collectiveness of a veteran. For the next three seasons, Markov will have the privilege of continuing the tutelage of the organizations younger defensemen. With prospects Jared Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu soon to be NHL regulars, Markov can continue to lead by example and groom the organization’s young defensemen for bigger roles in the future.

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)
(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)

After shaking off two injury plagued seasons, Markov seems rejuvenated playing alongside Alexei Emelin, his fellow countryman. Along with Josh Gorges and P.K. Subban, Bergevin is blessed with an excellent core of defensemen who can only benefit from Markov’s cool and calm demeanour.

While the team may have benefitted from some much needed cap space by allowing Markov to walk away as a free agent, something wouldn’t seem right seeing him in another uniform. In the salary cap world, for one player to stick with one franchise for his entire career has become somewhat of a rarity. Markov deserves, for all he has brought to the organization since his arrival in Montreal, to be a Hab for life. Currently Markov is the longest serving active Hab and while his new contract is a high risk, high reward situation, Bergevin couldn’t afford to lose such a significant role model.

Re-signing P.K. Subban, another key figure, is likely Bergevin’s next move. The younger face of the franchise is likely to command a salary nearing the $7 to $8.5 million range. Subban will undoubtedly be looking at Andrei Markov’s illustrious career as a Hab and be jealous. The Habs would also love to lock up Subban to a long-term contract. The deal appears to be a match made in heaven, however, the dollars must make sense.

The decision to re-sign Markov still leaves Montreal’s defense in question. Will the team prefer to sign some of its veterans to new deals or start the year with Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu on the roster? Francis Bouillon has stated he’s not ready to hang up his skates. Douglas Murray wants to play more games. Even Bergevin’s late season addition of Mike Weaver, who was instrumental in their run to the Eastern Conference final, would like to stay.

Weaver played with heart and blocked a tremendous amount of shots, yet is undersized. Weaver would be welcomed back by the fans who simply adored his play since coming over from the Florida Panthers. At 6’6” Jared Tinordi, who played well in brief appearances this season, may be a cheaper alternative to Weaver.

Both Tinordi and Beaulieu are still on their entry level contracts and therefore are cheaper commodities for the organization. Both have played well so far in the NHL and are each considered the Canadiens’ top prospects. The dynamic duo could also easily replace the roles of Bouillon and Weaver on the backend and allow the Habs to pursue a top-end free agent forward on Canada Day.

While retaining the services of Andrei Markov shows the club’s dedication to its players, the decision also reveals Bergevin’s preference to have veteran defensemen on his roster. Be it youth or experience, Markov will be the defense’s guiding light on what it means to be a Hab.