Free agency season is on the horizon and the Caps have some extra money to play with. They also have glaring needs on the blueline. One of the bigger names on the unrestricted free agent market is defenseman Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens, and the Caps should be calling his agent on day one.
The 35-year old Russian defenseman played top-pair minutes with P.K. Subban last season and is coming off a contract that paid him $5.75 annually. Despite his age, Markov figures to be legitimate top-pair defenseman wherever he signs next, perhaps the only one on the UFA market who can make that claim.
Last season he ranked ninth in the NHL in average TOI logged per game with 25:14. Critics will point out that he shared the majority of his ice time with fellow stalwart P.K. Subban in Montreal. Evidence actually suggests that Markov made Subban better when they were on the ice together as opposed to when they were apart. Markov’s other most frequent partner on D, Russian youngster Alexei Emelin, looked competent with Markov as his partner and was otherwise lost without his fellow countryman.
It’s also worth mentioning that Markov, when fully healthy, is capable of generating significant offense, given that his 43 points would have led the Caps’ D corps last year.
Perhaps the most important quality Markov would bring to Washington, however, is leadership. For years the Caps’ defensive unit has lacked a veteran defenseman who is both competent and is over the age of 30. It has arguably stunted the unit’s growth and contributed to their unending disappointing finishes.
Markov could provide much-needed guidance to similarly-minded puck movers like Mike Green, John Carlson and Russian youngster Dmitry Orlov. Imagine the Caps with a top-four of Carlson-Markov and Green-Karl Alzner next season, with Orlov bumped down to the third pairing which is where he belongs.
The terms of the contract would, of course, have to make sense for both parties. If Markov is seeking over $6 million or over three years, the Caps would probably be hard-pressed to commit that much to him. Anything less, however, merits serious consideration.