It’s been two weeks since the NHL free agency kicked off, and a lot has happened for the Montreal Canadiens organization.
The Habs are excited to add defenseman Karl Alzner to their team, but losing Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and top prospect Mikhail Sergachev puts the organization in a tough situation: should they keep Andrei Markov?
It’s evident that Markov is dedicated the the Habs organization, and has stated several times to the media that he doesn’t want to leave Montreal. Being able to spend 16 seasons with Montreal is extremely rare for not only any NHL team, but specifically the Canadiens, who take great pride in their team and history.
At 38, Markov has proven to be unlike most NHL veterans who are close to retiring: just last season he posted 6-30-36 totals and a plus-18 rating in 62 games, as well as ranking third in average ice time per game at 21:50 among the Canadiens.
The problem doesn’t come from the salary cap: GM Marc Bergevin has one spot open and $9 million left in salary-cap space according to the Montreal Gazette. If the organization can afford to keep Markov, and he’s stated he wants to stay and retire as a Hab, you’d think this would be an easy decision for them.
But the question about Markov’s future is still up in the air. At this point in his career, along with his statistics, I think Montreal can give Markov his remaining two years. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise Montreal is ready and willing to give up longtime players, and that’s what leaves fans at a loss.
In the same article by the Montreal Gazette, “the last Montreal captain to retire as a Canadien was Bob Gainey in 1989.” Regardless of being a captain or not, being able to play for Montreal for over 10 seasons is such an honor to players, and Markov knows this.
Yes, the addition of Alzner will add to Montreal’s defense, but with so many losses already in the off-season Montreal needs Markov more than ever. His age hasn’t affected his playing, and Montreal can build a fresh line of defense once Markov retires in a few years. Hopefully Bergevin sees this, but time is running out for Markov, quickly.
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