The Montreal Canadiens spared little expense when it came to locking up crucial defensemen this offseason, yet it’s easy to see why they decided to roll the dice. At least, that certainly seemed to be the case regarding the expensive extensions they inked with P.K. Subban and Andrei Markov.
Naturally, Markov’s price tag doesn’t seem so staggering compared to Subban’s stunning $9 million cap hit, but the 35-year-old is a couple injuries and/or slumps away from drawing serious heat to his three-year, $17.25 million extension.
Considering some struggles in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, that price tag probably would have looked foolish just a summer ago, especially when you combine the inherent risks of a 35+ deal with the veteran blueliner’s unlucky injury history. Still, when you consider Habs Eyes on the Prize’s take on Markov’s most recent year, this deal might just be a bargain (or at least a necessary evil):
Taking into account the tough minutes that Markov was assigned this year, the amount he played, and his age, it’s hard to believe he was able to put up the season he did. Replacing a player of his caliber is essentially impossible, and if Therrien wisely decreases his minutes a couple shifts per game, he’s likely to be fresher and put up better results.
There is almost no way to argue that the Habs aren’t getting fair value here, no matter what deficiencies you think Markov might have in regards to speed. If you look at other defenseman playing at his level at around the same age in Dan Boyle, Kimmo Timonen, or even Sergei Gonchar and Stephane Robidas, 39 seems to be the age where the big drop off happens, and that’s an age the Canadiens don’t have to worry about with this contract.
Both Markov and especially Subban will face significant pressure stemming from the justifiable-yet-undeniable risks that come with their contract extensions, but that doesn’t mean that Montreal GM Marc Bergevin made illogical decisions in either case.
Don’t expect anything but venomous, hindsight-fueled criticisms if Markov’s deal proves to be a flop, though.