While many would like to see the Habs bring Andrei Markov back, they’re already spending quite a bit on their back end. If they do re-sign him, there’s a strong case to be made that they’ll be spending too much on their blueline.
Although Montreal lost one of their more expensive defencemen in Alexei Emelin via the Expansion Draft while also moving Nathan Beaulieu (who is heading for a sizable raise) to Buffalo, they basically re-spent that money when they inked Karl Alzner. (Not to mention David Schlemko; although he’s considerably cheaper than Emelin, he still makes $2.1 million per season which isn’t insignificant.)
Last season, Montreal spent a little more than $27 million on their back end which ranked them second league-wide according to Spotrac (who breaks down team payroll by position). Presently, they sit at roughly $23.25 million (perhaps a bit more or less depending on who you project as the extra blueliner(s). Suppose GM Marc Bergevin relents and Markov gets his $6 million asking price. That would bump them to over $29 million and in the process, give them the most expensive defence in the league.
For a team who had difficulty scoring down the stretch and into the postseason, that might be a bit of a tough sell. In this scenario, the back end will certainly be improved (a full season of Jordie Benn on the third pairing will help things as well) but a bit better in-zone play isn’t likely to turn into a big jump offensively. If Markov gets his money, the Canadiens will be down to realistically about $1.5-$2 million to spend; while their projected cap space would be higher, they do typically try to save themselves at least $1 million for later on (injuries, trades, etc). They’re not going to be able to add much offensive help with that money.
When it comes to Markov and the Habs, a common sentiment is that they can’t afford to not bring him back. Given their current spending on the blueline though, it’s fair to ask if they can afford to re-sign him and go with the most expensive defensive corps in the league (or very close to it, depending on what Markov ultimately signs for). Is he a must-keep player or a luxury at this stage? We’ll find out what Bergevin thinks the answer to that question is in the days and weeks ahead.