Should the Montreal Canadiens Sign Andrei Markov?
Lately, Andrei Markov has made himself clear that he wants to start 2019-2020 in an NHL uniform. He has trained extensively in Florida, has hired high-end agent Allan Walsh – who also represents Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin – and has mentioned numerous times that he wants a one-year NHL contract, preferably with Montreal. After all, Markov played 990 games in a Canadiens uniform from
2000-01 to 2016-17. Walsh has neither confirmed nor denied if he’s spoken with the Canadiens’ management. Which leaves this question: Should the Montreal Canadiens sign Andrei Markov?
Here is the “yes” side to the question: This is just like the Tomas Plekanec situation last year. Here is a veteran Canadiens player who wants to reach 1000 games with his club. Plekanec got a 1-year contract from Marc Bergevin, and proceeded to reach 1000 games by November, mentor the younger members of the Canadiens’ forward group and provide some offence to the bottom-six. He then retired from NHL hockey as a Montreal Canadien. Markov is a very similar situation. Markov is 40 years old, and is ten games away from 1000 NHL games. One would assume that if he were to get a contract, it would be a one-year deal that is terminated after his 1000th game, just like Plekanec. However, Markov has more to bring to the table than Plekanec did last year. Markov, while old, is still a left-shot defenseman capable of quarterbacking a power play, something the Canadiens have lacked ever since Markov departed, after the 2016-17 season. The left side of the Canadiens’ defence is very young, and could use a seasoned veteran to mentor them. Victor Mete is heading into his third season. Ben Chiarot is 28. Noah Juulsen, with whom Markov would most likely be paired, is 22 and has limited NHL experience, yet lots of potential. What better player to mentor him and acclimatize him to the NHL than Andrei Markov? Not only is there a sentimental reason to giving Markov a contract, but he could fill a need for the Canadiens as well.
And now, the “no” side to the question: One potential issue regarding a contract to Markov is his age. He is 40 years old. In a league that keeps getting younger and younger, is it that wise to give a contract to a 40-year-old? Probably not. After all, signing Markov would create a logjam on defence, and prevent younger players like Christian Folin, Noah Juulsen, Josh Brook and/or Cale Fleury from getting the ice-time and experience they need to help their development. As well, Markov’s KHL numbers are worrying. While he got 33 points in 55 games in 2017-18 – impressive considering the lower scoring among defensemen in the KHL – he only got 14 points in 49 games last year, and no points in the playoffs as AK-Bars Kazan got swept in the first round. This suggests a steep decline in his quality of play. Lastly, the Canadiens have a lot of superb passers on their team. They do not need to bring in someone to quarterback a power play. That answer can come from within, be it Drouin, Petry, or even Juulsen or Suzuki. Why sign Markov to a contract if it just might mean wasted cap space? If you want to see if Markov can still play at an NHL level, sign him to a professional tryout offer and let him earn the contract. Sentimentality doesn’t count for anything in the NHL because it doesn’t win you games. You shouldn’t sign someone so they can play 1000 games, you should sign them only if they can contribute to your team.
Verdict: give the guy a contract. It’s not going to hurt the team cap-wise; all Markov wants is a one-year deal at just under $1 000 000. He can contribute to the team. He would make a great veteran quarterback to the power play, and allow Drouin to get into a shooting position, so that it isn’t only Weber who shoots on the power play. Markov wouldn’t take a spot away from Noah Juulsen, Josh Brook, Cale Fleury or Christian Folin, because the latter three are all right-shot defensemen, while Markov is a left-shot. I am a firm believer that defensemen should play their natural sides. I disagreed with everything I wrote in the “no” section of the article. I hope it still sounds convincing. It would be great to see Markov play 1000 games with the Canadiens, just like it was great to see Plekanec play 1000 games last year. It’s worth a shot. Give Andrei Markov an NHL contract.