HabsWorld.net -- 

One down, two to go. With three of the Habs’ most important players still needing contracts, Bob Gainey took care of one of them on Thursday by signing the club’s best defenceman, Andrei Markov, to a two year deal.

Markov will earn 1.5 million this year, and 2 million the next. That averages out to 1.75 million a year, which will be the amount that he counts for against the Salary Cap. When the deal expires, Markov will be 28-years-old.

There was perhaps a bit of concern over Markov, as he had spent last year playing for Dynamo Moscow in Russia and there was talk that he may have stayed overseas. However, erase all of that, as #79 will be back in the red, white, and blue of Montreal and could be poised for a breakout year.

One thing’s for sure, he’s only going to get better and better. Markov is incredibly skilled, and sees things on the ice that most of us could never see.

His offensive mind and skating ability should yet again be a huge asset on the backend. He posted 28 points in 69 games the last time there was an NHL season, but struggled at times due to the death of his father.

With Alexei Kovalev, who Markov has cited as being a strong influence on him at the tail end of 03-04, and Alexander Perezhogin seemingly ready for primetime, this could be the year of the Russians in Montreal. Any team with three guys as talented as them can only hope so.

Markov is also a former centre. He played down the middle before being converted to a defender. Could we see him in the shootout? The 6’0″ Markov should be the one quarterbacking what could be an awesome first powerplay unit, too.