It only took 90 minutes to pass after Pierre Gauthier gave his press conference tonight, before the news came crashing over the airwaves.
Pointing backwards, to last years late calander signing of Carey Price, Gauthier voiced the opinion that there was no need to be concerned with the timing of inking a deal with Markov.
I guess he knew something we didn’t! But that’s his job.
So the news that we’ve all been holding our breath over, debating, or arguing about is now official. Andrei Markov will return to his spot on the defensive unit of the Montreal Canadiens, and for a nice chunk of change.
Markov’s agent, Don Meehan, insured that he got the best possible deal for his client. The deal terms revealed, show a 3 year – $5.75M per year kitty. That means that Markov will be on the Canadiens roster through the 2014 season, costing the franchise a total of $17.25M.
This brings an end to all the speculation that has been in the air since the Habs season came to a close on Wednesday April 11th. Since that date, fans and MSM alike have been giving their 2 cents as to if, and for how much, the blueliner should be paid to return to La Flanelle.
Twitter feeds exploded after the news hit the public tonight. Hockey web pages filled up with opinion. Many fans are of the belief that this contract is a year too long, while others think the monetary amount is far too high for an athlete who hasn’t seen a full season of work in the past 2 years. As a matter of fact, Markov only saw 7 games last season.
Back to back ACL injuries sidelined the defensive superstar, forcing him to undergo 2 major reconstructive knee surgeries within two years. So the speculation that Markov is not worth the contract he’s just been awarded, is understandable.
But let’s look at this from an unbiased perspective.
Markov has been a force to be reckoned with since he first joined the Montreal Canadiens back in the 2000 – 2001 season. He has always shown great vision, and strong puck handling skills, even early on. Before playing on North American ice, he was considered one of the best defensemen in the Russian Hockey League.
But it was in the post lockout era of the NHL that Markov began to really show his skills. After returning to the Montreal Canadiens, having played for the Moscow Dynamo during the lockout, the star defenseman had a breakout year (2005-2006) with 46 points in 67 games. He returned the following year – topping those numbers with 49 points. Enough to warrant him a 4 year deal (signed in May 2007), ensuring he would remain a Canadien through 2011.
He did not disappoint. Playing his first full 82 game season in 2007, Markov shone with 16 goals, 42 assists and his first trip to the NHL All Star Game as a starter. The following year was no different, as he amassed 12 goals and 52 assists (his career high), and established himself as one of the premiere defensemen in the league.
His skills as a player run deep. He has been the quarterback of the Habs power play during his time in Montreal, but he’s also proven to be one of the better two way defensemen in the league – bar none. His veteran leadership skills have been an integral part in developing younger players, and his leadership off the ice is more than commendable.
But where does that leave us with the recent signing of this superstar?
His past two seasons have seen him sidelined with various injuries. A laceration after a collision with Carey Price had him out of the line-up in October of 2009. After a remarkable recovery, and an early re-insertion into the line-up, Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins ended his season during the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After surgery, and extensive rehabilitation, he returned to the Canadiens blue line only to suffer a knee on knee collision with Eric Staal of the Carolina Hurricanes – ending his comeback and sending him once again to go under the knife.
Despite the bad luck and the extensive injuries, Markov at 80% is better than all the others at 100%. It was a no brainer that Gauthier needed to secure a new contract with Markov, and ensure that he remain with le Bleu Blanc et Rouge.
Am I happy with the dollar amount? Not really. Am I happy with the term? I’m a bit worried on that angle as well. But reality states this. If for some terrible reason, Andrei Markov is re-injured again, he’ll be put on the LTIR list and his salary will come off our books.
On the other hand, if he is fully recovered and stays healthy, our defensive unit will be a powerhouse to contend with. One that is truly Stanley Cup worthy. His ability, along with his leadership (paired with Hal Gill), will be more than we could ask for. His mentoring skills for younger players like PK Subban will be indispensible.
Let’s not forget what he’s capable of.
In the end, the gamble is worth it. This is a talent that could tear us apart if it was left to be signed to any other team in the NHL. I’ve always known that Markov was a franchise player for the Canadiens.
And today – on June 23rd, 2011 – Pierre Guathier proved me correct. Now let’s hope that Markov can do the same for him.