The Montreal Canadiens locked up Andrei Markov to a three year contract extension this afternoon, that will have him earn the same 5.75 million he has taken home every season since 2007-08. The three year deal is not ideal for the Habs, but they really had no choice but to sign Markov.
Markov scored seven goals and 43 points last season, which ranked him fourth on the team in points and tied with Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Suter for 17th among NHL defensemen. Markov was especially dangerous alongside P.K. Subban with the man advantage, where 21 of his points were scored.
Markov was not just a powerplay specialist however, as he led the Canadiens in average ice time this season and was a huge part of the team’s penalty kill. Markov was also heavily relied on during the Habs run to the Eastern Conference Final, as only Subban played more postseason minutes than the Russian defender.
So while giving the 35 year old Markov a three year contract is a big risk, especially in year three, the Canadiens could not replace him and had to re-sign him. Markov knew this and held out for a three year contract and the Habs blinked first.
The Canadiens are already going through a bit of a youth movement on their blue line this summer. Veterans Douglas Murray and Francis Bouillon are surely gone and Mike Weaver is still without a contract for next season. To lose four veteran defenders in the same offseason would put a heavy strain on the Canadiens depth chart, so why not keep the best of the bunch?
Markov ranked 9th in the league in ice time this season, averaging 25:14 per game. Trying to replace those minutes through promotions, signings or trades would be a difficult task. Rookies Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi will play a bigger role with the Habs next season, but asking them to take the place of Bouillon and Weaver is reasonable, but asking a rookie to replace a 25 minute man is setting a good young player up for failure.
The Canadiens needed to dip into free agency to upgrade their defense, and they just signed the best available defender. A three year deal is may be a season too long for the Canadiens, but three more years of Markov will be easier to deal with than no more years.