The time for the Montreal Canadiens to play hardball with Andrei Markov is over. There might never have been a good time, but what’s done is done, and general manager Marc Bergevin has no other choice but to give into Markov’s admittedly high demands of $6 million over each of the next two years.
"First come, first served"-Bergevin à Markov et Radulov. #tvasports
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) July 2, 2017
Radulov Went to a Different Restaurant
Now that Bergevin failed to get Alexander Radulov under contract, reportedly after making the same offer as the Dallas Stars, only too late, he has to put his money where his mouth is. Granted, Bergevin never said he would give whoever came first exactly what they were asking, but that’s the nature of the dangerous game he was seemingly playing. It looks like both called his hypothetical bluff, with Radulov leaving altogether.
As a result, with an estimated $9.2 million in cap space left this season and a glaring hole on defense on the left side, Bergevin has nothing to lose except some of his pride. With Tomas Plekanec’s $6 million coming off the books next summer, he’ll likely have the space to accommodate Markov’s demands for next season too.
Now, Markov is theoretically asking for a raise from the $5.75 million he had been making since 2007-08 (cap hit). While few can realistically expect him to get as much as he is looking for considering he is going on 39 years of age, that’s what negotiations are for. That’s his opening figure, and, logically speaking, it’s far from set in stone, but it stands to reason, if he really did want a raise, he’d be in a great position to get one. The Habs need him.
If Not Markov, Who?
Going on a year now, most analysts have been arguing the Habs need a bona-fide No.2 defenseman to play with Weber. At the time, Nathan Beaulieu may have been the best option, and, obviously that didn’t turn out so well. The Habs could have traded him as part of package to get the mystery man, but, looking at what Bergevin ultimately got in exchange, that turned out way worse.
Now, who have the Habs got? Karl Alzner, who Bergevin, himself, described as a top-four? No, thanks.
MB on Alzner – He's got a really good gap, a great stick, a good first pass. He'll never run numbers. But he's a top 4 for sure.
— Brian Wilde (@BWildeMTL) July 2, 2017
Make no mistake, the list of players suited to play with Weber realistically starts and ends with Markov. It helps, no doubt, that, of the eight players on that list, many are no longer with the team because of conscious decisions made by Bergevin. And now he risks letting the best option slip through his fingers.
Markov the Best of Bad Options
Of course, Markov is far from the ideal here. His age and mobility are not what it used to be, and, even though he performed well playing with Weber when he did this past season, the key word there is “when.” The two were only together for 466 minutes on the ice. That’s less than half the 1046 Weber played with Alexei Emelin… for some reason. Oh, right, Michel Therrien.
Even if Markov does re-sign, there are no guarantees he’ll be able to withstand the rigors of an 82-game schedule after he just played 62. Welcome to the NHL, though. Nothing is for certain, except for perhaps the idea that the Habs won’t be able to build on the disappointment of last season without a legitimate No. 2 of some kind. Preferably left-handed, please.
Maybe the still-available Brian Campbell fits the mold, but he’s hardly a superior option. There are only a few months between the two in age. Plus, Markov was able to play an average of over five minutes more per game last season and had by far the better numbers. You’d also be throwing away all the good PR and goodwill that would result from bringing a Habs lifer back into the fold.
Sure, Campbell might come cheaper, considering the $1.5 million deal he signed with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer. Bergevin kind of also threw away any right he had to make an argument for fiscal responsibility by signing Alzner to the deal he did, though.
A Plea to Marc Bergevin
Bergevin has got the space and the roster spot to sign Markov now. What else do you need at this point??? A bigger hill to die on before you’re able to concede to his demands and move on?
Hate to break it to you, but the P.K. Subban deal is as big as it gets. Your fate is already sealed based on how that one works out, one way or another. Re-signing Markov won’t tip the scales in either direction unless it’s to give the Habs a better shot at winning and making that one trade look better.
If Bergevin can get Markov to take less, great. Good on him, but to force the issue on what might be mere principle when there’s so much more at stake is only putting the Canadiens at a competitive disadvantage. Forget disadvantage. Without a No. 2 defenseman, they may not even be competitive.
Does Bergevin really want to find out? He doesn’t need to.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.