It is officially over. After 16 seasons, Andrei Markov will not be in a Canadiens uniform to start the 2017-2018 season, the team announced on Thursday. Markov announced on a conference call that he has decided to return to Russia and play in the KHL.
The news of his departure had been widely speculated and was on center stage since the signing of veteran defenceman Mark Streit. Markov leaves the Canadiens after 16 seasons in the infamous jersey, posting 572 points over 990 games. This type of production from the back-end will be sorely missed, as the acquisitions of Karl Alzner, David Schlemko, and even Streit will certainly not be sufficient to replace what Markov brought to the team on a nightly basis. So, the question of “why now” is an important one to consider.
For emotional fans of the savvy veteran, his departure only 10 games short of the 1,000 game mark seems like a cruel treatment for a player who has been a consistent offensive threat, especially on the PP. At first glance, Markov’s statistics were as regular as ever in 2016-2017 as he scored 36 points in 62 games. And for those who really want to defend the veteran, whatever the salary request may have been, the 20 games that the team played without him in the lineup last season would indicate that his request was justified; they really missed Markov.
However, his play away from the puck was not what it used to be, as Markov had admittedly lost a step in the last few seasons. His playoff performances were never able to improve upon his regular season play, and his PP production had slipped over the last two seasons. At the end of the day, it appears that his salary requests, or perhaps the request for term on the contract, were simply too high for GM Marc Bergevin who saw a continuation of the downward spiral. If that continuation were to start effecting his offensive prowess at 5-on-5, then he definitely would have been an overpaid burden on the salary cap.
For the Canadiens, this news places significant pressure on rookie Jakub Jerabek, because if he can’t fill a large portion of the void left by Markov, it means that the team will be relying heavily on Streit to fill the offensive void.
At the end of the day, what is important here is to quickly forget this contract dispute and to remember the 16 successful seasons Markov had in Montreal, a near 0.6 ppg career pace on the team’s blue line in almost 1,000 games. When Markov returns to the Bell Center this season, it should be to a roaring ovation for “The General”.
According to CapFriendly, the Canadiens have just under $8.5 million of cap space for the upcoming season so while they won’t be spending it on Markov, it’s likely that they will at least spend some of that money elsewhere before the puck drops on 2017-18.