Andrei Markov had his best full season in a long time for the Montreal Canadiens in 2013-14, playing more than 50 games and cracking the 40-point mark for the first time since 2008-09. He was a rock on the Canadiens' blueline, driving possession alongside P.K. Subban, and then carrying a more defensive-oriented pairing away from the reigning Norris trophy-winner.
It was enough for the Canadiens to decide they weren't ready to be without him, and on Monday, they announced a three-year extension with Markov, to the tune of $5.75M per season -- the exact same cap hit as his last contract and, weirdly, the one before that.
Unsurprisingly, Markov's health was the first thing Marc Bergevin mentioned in announcing the extension.
“We are very happy to have secured a long term agreement with Andrei. He is an important part of our group of core players. He is healthy, shows a very good work ethic and has great leadership skills. He plays big minutes against the top opponents, and game-changing defensemen of his calibre are hard to find” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
“I am very pleased to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens organization for the coming years. I love Montreal and I am very confident in our group of players. I want to contribute to the success of our team,” said Andrei Markov.
It's a gamble, since Markov's 35 years old. If the injury troubles return, he's still going to eat up just under $6M a year of the cap. But someone was going to pay Markov at least this much in free agency if he made it there, which is why Montreal had to pony up.
And it doesn't look like a foolish gamble. Markov didn't look like a fragile player last season. He looked like a player in the midst of a renaissance. He was a vital member of the Canadiens' defence corps, and if they hope to improve on last year's run to the Eastern Conference Final, that means ensuring they don't lose his contributions.