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Whether or not the Habs should trade veteran defenseman Andrei Markov is a polarizing topic of debate. We may only truly know the answer to the question when he retires and we’re able to look back on the final years of his NHL career, whether they be with Montreal or another club.

But when it comes down to it, Markov’s value is at the highest it’s going to be for the remainder of his career. Markov has put two reconstructive knee surgeries behind him to prove he can still play in the NHL. As a pending unrestricted free agent, Markov has the option to wait until the offseason to sign with any of NHL’s 30 teams. If he plays his cards right, it could be the last contract he has to sign.

Can the Habs afford to offer him a rich, four-year deal? Or will he settle for a hometown discount over a shorter two- or three year term? It has been awhile since a player completed their entire career in Montreal and retired a Canadien. Markov has the opportunity to earn that distinction.

At the end of the day the NHL is a business and trading Markov could be in the organizations best interest. Teams would potentially fork over a fortune for Andrei’s services at the NHL trade deadline.

So should the Habs trade Markov? You can join the discussion on the HW forums and read below to see what others wrote.

Answers from HW’s writers:

Alexander Létourneau: This is a tough one. On one hand you have a player who has that presence on the power play, is a leader in the dressing room and has been a big part of the Montreal Canadiens for his entire career. On the other, you have a potential UFA, with some pretty good credentials, who finds it increasingly difficult to skate and keep up with anyone if they get some room, and, quite frankly, would likely command a similar salary to the one he currently holds. The key here is the return. What could he fetch and what needs to replaced if he goes? The power play has been mediocre and a loss of leadership usually sees new leadership step up. The Montreal Canadiens are a team built for speed, which Markov simply does not have anymore. He is still very effective on the power play, he’s a pin-point passer and his vision hasn’t faded. So, a player similar to a younger Markov currently on a bad team in some kind of elaborate package deal. Slim pickings right now as all but five teams have a viable shot at the postseason.

Ultimately, I don’t see a trade happening. The Canadiens are in the playoff hunt and trading Markov would only be possible if they were totally out of contention. I think this is a sink or swim group right now that Bergevin will stick with. Trading him, now, would be a seismic distraction for this group. The risk is letting him go for nothing in the off-season if contract negotiations go bad. Also worth noting, he will be with team Russia at the Olympics, on an Olympic size rink. If his skating is an issue in North America, how badly can he be exposed on the big rink? Will that affect his trade value? It’s a gamble whichever way you look at it. Basically, I just used a whole bunch of words for – no, don’t trade him.

Matthew Macaskill: If the Canadiens truly have a shot at winning a Stanley Cup in the next three years, they should re-sign Markov. If he’s dealt at the deadline it means at least one of two things: 1) GM Marc Bergevin doesn’t believe the team can win before Markov retires; 2) Markov doesn’t believe the team can win before he retires.

Kevin Meldrum: It is for sure time to trade him, if the rumors that LA is interested a Clifford Toffoli or Zykov and a 1st rd pick is what I would ask for though the rumor is Tanner Pearson this would be an awesome trade for the Habs and I am sure their are a dozen other teams that would be in playoff position very interested in Markov. Right now is the time to act on a trade he has stayed healthy for over a year now and he still has 3 plus years left it will be atleast that time before the Habs are serious contenders. This is the time for Bergy to make his truth mark with a gutsy trade that could really benefit the Habs now and in the future please do not waste this huge assest, others teams I see interested are Washington Detroit and even Edmonton.

Norm Szcyrek: I would hate to see Marc Bergevin trade Markov, since he’s a player who has been developed by Montreal and played every moment of his pro career for the Habs. He has even gone out of his way to obtain his Canadian citizenship, which is a rarity for a hockey player, especially a Russian born one. The chronicles of his knee injuries have been well noted, and he has worked hard to rehab them and get back to the Canadiens lineup as an effective player. This fall he fired his agent and decided to represent himself, which is typically a move a player will make if they intend to stay. However, this sport is very much a business. If Markov is willing to accept a contract no more than 3 seasons, and between $5-6M, then I would prefer to see him stay. However, if Markov [the agent] is demanding more than $6M and a longer term, then I would prefer to see the Habs trade him before the deadline. Loyalty can only go so far in this sport in the salary cap era that the NHL has embraced.

Responses from the HW community:

sim.on: I think it’s pretty simple. If you can sign him to a reasonable deal of no more than 2 years prior to the trade deadline then you keep him. If not you have to at least consider offers for him. Some GMs can get pretty crazy around deadline time, ie. 2 2nd rounders for Murray. Markov would probably net you a sweet prospect that could step in next year or a good prospect and a first (18-30 range) or a 1st and 2 2nds.

It is always hard to trade someone who has been the team’s best player for a number of years and is a lifer and if he is traded I will definitely be sad to see him go. However we don’t want to make the same mistake Calgary made, imagine where they could be now if they had traded Iggy 2 years before they did.

sbhatt: It’s hard to separate emotion and logic where Markov is concerned for me. Love the guy. On a team with several players I truly hate, he has consistently been a guy I love having on the team. BUT… I hear what you’re saying; getting something for him rather than having a ‘bad contract’ in a couple of years and getting nothing is a situation that has to be considered very carefully. The value of trading him cannot be dismissed.

The Chicoutimi Cucumber: Now, Markov. I agree with sim.on above: it all comes down to salary and term. He is in serious danger of becoming a 5th defenceman who becomes a 2nd defenceman on the PP: a classic “specialist,” on a continuum with guys like Marc-Andre Bergeron. The “leadership” argument only goes so far. Lots of other players can provide leadership. Heck, you can always go and sign a guy like Hal Gill, i.e., an unambiguous bottom-pairing veteran defenceman at a reasonable rate, to provide that. And when we’re talking leadership, let’s remember – it’s not like Markov has won Cups or anything.

And that gets to another option, i.e., the UFA (or trade) markets. I’d prefer to see the Habs adding a legit #4 defenceman with a less flashy offensive upside, but a much stronger and more reliable all-around game, than Markov seems to be bringing; that’d be a better use of $5 mil IMHO.

When you consider the return Markov could generate at the deadline – at least a 1st rounder, probably more – I incline to the view that the organizationally responsible thing to do is move him. (Admittedly, I’m also looking for signs from MB that he has the necessary ruthlessness to make major moves – this would be one example).

habs rule: Trading Markov has nothing to do with contract or term. It is only a hockey decision. He is not good enough anymore, but can provide prospects, and maybe roster players of value. I really am a big fan of Markov and have always spoken against trading him for the last 3-4 years. BUT I now believe we need to move forward and he is one big chip we can move to improve this team over the next 2-3 years when we win the cup. He will be retired or totally useless when we have the parade.

Habsfan: As much as I like Markov and as much as I think it would be useful to keep him around to help with the development of Beaulieu and Tinordi, if we can get a good return for Markov in a trade this year, I think we should do it! Markov will fetch at least 5.5 million per year and he’ll want a 3 or 4 year contract….The Habs can’t give him a contract that long, that would be irresponsible!

It’s not like the Habs are a serious contender for the cup. We’re still a few years away, so overall, I think we should trade him if we can!

huzer: This thread will be an exercise in 20/20. If Montreal hangs on to Markov, makes the playoffs, fizzles out in round 1 (or round 2), and then Markov bolts, people will be lamenting the “bad asset management” that we didn’t get something for Markov. If he’s traded, and then Montreal fizzles out of a playoff spot, well then we should’ve help on to him to make the playoffs! It’s kind of a no win.

I’ve gone on record in a different thread listing Markov in my top 5 most important players to the team. To be traded, it’d have to be a deal that would knock my socks off, and not a trade that’s being trumpeted as a character building trade for the team. But man, if Markov walks…that’s the chance you take.