The market for Andrei Markov could be lukewarm or quite heated, and no one really seems to know which. Canadiens’ GM Marc Bergevin has been tight-lipped about his impending free agents, but it’s fair to assume he’ll have some interest in re-signing the Russian defender. That said, the cap situation for Montreal is not simple, and re-signing the dynamic unrestricted free-agent Alexander Radulov will likely take priority. The Habs also need to negotiate a contract with RFA Alex Galchenyuk, attempt to dump Tomas Plekanec’s salary, survive the expansion draft, and round out their forward corps. With Jordie Benn and Jeff Petry already looking to assume larger roles next season, Markov could easily slip through the cracks.
The 38 year-old earned a hefty $5.75 MM last season, but had reasonable production with 6 goals and 30 assists. His advanced possession numbers tell a tale, however, as he took a massive leap forward from the previous season, hitting a solid 54.0% Corsi For. His ice-time saw a slight drop (2:00 less per game), but he’s still seeing top-four minutes. Markov moves the puck well and is a power-play guru with a hard, accurate shot. He’s been the assistant captain on the Canadiens for many years and has never played in a different NHL city, but he could command a sizable final contract in this year’s complete drought of top-end players. If there ever were a time to cash in, this off-season could be it.
On the free-agent market, only Kevin Shattenkirk clearly outclasses Markov in terms of raw offensive ability from the blueline. A team might want to take a risk on a struggling but younger Michael Del Zotto or Dimitry Kulikov, but ultimately, Markov is the proven commodity. Considering that Markov has never won a championship, one would assume that if he were to leave the province of Quebec, it would be for a contender. There is no shortage of teams that could show interest. He could go to a perennial competitor on the cheap, such as the Blackhawks, or could opt for a squad like the Blue Jackets who are on the cusp of true contention. Where he lands is anyone’s guess at the moment, but it’s fair to expect he will make a positive impact wherever he does.