At the age of 38, defenceman Andrei Markov’s pro hockey career is winding down and he’s decided to finish it in the KHL. Markov was a free agent this summer, but the team he’s played for the last 15 seasons, the Montreal Canadiens, didn’t offer him a new contract. It was reported that the Florida Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers were in interested in the services of the Russian veteran, but he decided against staying in the NHL.
Markov told the media that if Montreal didn’t re-sign him then he didn’t really want to play with another NHL team and would play elsewhere. This resulted in the blueliner signing with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL for the next two seasons. After being one of the club’s steadiest defenders over the past decade and a half, many fans are scratching their heads as to why Montreal didn’t offer him at least one more year. Markov had also been a pleasant surprise offensively with the Habs by contributing 572 points for the squad in his 990 games.
In fact, he’s tied for second overall with Guy Lapointe on the club’s all-time scoring list for points by a defenceman. He had a good season in 2016/17 with six goals and 30 assists in 62 contests so was still productive. Markov ranked 38th in the NHL for scoring by a defenceman last year and Shea Weber was the only Montreal blueliner to outscore him. When it came to points-per-game, Markov was actually ranked 16th-best in the league.
Since letting Markov walk, Montreal has acquired defencemen Mark Streit, David Schlemko, Joe Morrow and Karl Alzner to help fill the gap. Fans are a little puzzled though why the Habs decided to ignore the 38-year-old Markov and then sign the 39-year-old Streit. However, Markov may have priced himself out of the market in Montreal as he reportedly wanted $6 million a year for the next two seasons or would have taken a one-year deal. Montreal has just over $8 million in salary-cap space, but didn’t want to spend the majority of it on Markov.
The team may still sign another one or two free agents, but the pickings are getting slim now. There are still several pretty good defenceman who have yet to be signed though and while they may not be youngsters, they certainly won’t cost as much as Markov was asking. These include veterans such as Dennis Wideman, Cody Franson, Fedor Tyutin and Francois Beauchemin and younger players such as Cody Goloubef and Eric Gelinas.
The Canadiens decided Markov wasn’t worth the money though and must now try to replace his minutes and point production. They may hit the jackpot at training camp if one of the team’s prospects shines and earns a spot on the blue line or they may see how things go at the start of the season with what they have. Streit might be able to step in where Markov left off, but if he struggles we could see Montreal make a trade for an offensively-gifted defenceman before Christmas.