Andrei Markov has played every one of his 684 NHL games in a Canadiens sweater since arriving in North America thirteen years ago. Selected in the 6th round of the 1998 NHL entry draft, not much was expected of Markov, but he blossomed offensively following the 2004-05 lockout.
Markov would post seasons of 46, 49, 58 and 64 points when he returned to Montreal following the cancelled 2004-05 season, proving to be one of the top point scoring defenseman in the world.
Injuries began to take their toll on Markov in the 2009-10 season when he only suited up for 45 games. Knee surgeries would hold him out of the lineup for much of the next two seasons, as he played only 20 games combined from 2010-12.
Markov returned to form this season with the Canadiens, posting 30 points while playing in all 48 games. His 30 points were fourth most among NHL defenders, and his 23 power play points trailed only teammate P.K. Subban who notched 26.
The problem with Markov is, although he is one of the league’s best in the offensive zone, there is a much different story to be told about his defensive zone play. He lost a step through several knee injuries and surgeries, and finished the season with the worst plus minus on the team. His defensive lapses really came to light when regular partner Alexei Emelin was out of the lineup with his own knee injury.
With one year remaining on his contract that will have him earn 5.75 million dollars, the question for General Manager Marc Bergevin becomes, Does moving Markov now make more sense than keeping him to finish his contract?
The answer, of course, hinges on the potential return. With the NHL draft coming up on June 30, trade talks will be heating up around the league. Putting one of the league’s top offensive defensemen on the block could entice another GM enough to make a significant offer.
This would leave a void on the Canadiens blueline, and asking Nathan Beaulieu to fill it in 2013-14 may be a little premature. However, Subban has already taken over as the top power play option on the team and Raphael Diaz as well as Beaulieu could help soften the loss of Markov.
With the cap coming down and Montreal looking to add size and toughness to become a more difficult team to play against, moving Markov would open up the vault to allow Bergevin to explore his options. With the entire defensive corps from the past season due to return to Montreal in the fall, if Bergevin decides changes are needed, it will take a bold move to make it happen.
As a fan of the Canadiens, the idea of moving Markov seems irrational at first glance. However, if the return is a first round pick, and the cap savings are used to sign someone such as the Boston Bruins huge scoring winger Nathan Horton, it would be crazy for Montreal’s brass not to think hard about dealing the power play specialist.
It would be difficult for many Canadiens fans to see Markov moved, but what draft pick would be high enough to convince you moving Markov is the right thing to do?