The bombs just kept dropping during an afternoon telephone conference put on for Andrei Markov by the Montreal Canadiens. That in itself was bizarre as usually when the club and the player part ways, that’s the end.
It started peacefully: “Today, I had to make a difficult decision. I will not be back with the Canadiens this season. 16 years proud and lucky to wear Habs jersey”. That didn’t cause too much of a stir. Perhaps, the odd tug at the heart strings to know that he was emotional and disappointed. Nothing too dramatic for sure.
Markov then became more forthcoming as the questions came: “It’s a business. I’m not going to blame anyone. I’m ready to move forward to the future. To make a deal, it takes two people, but I don’t want to go through the numbers and conversations”.
He didn’t want to, but that’s exactly that what he did when pressed on it: I was asking for two years for the security of my family and myself. I feel great and I am in good shape and I am not planning to retire anytime soon”.
Well, that was acceptable at that moment. This is what everyone had heard. A two-year deal versus a one-year deal impasse and no one in the league would offer two years. It was going according to all script readings as expected.
But then….. “I was ready to stay in Montreal in a one-year deal but it didn’t work and I don’t want to go into the details but it didn’t work”.
Sorry! What? Come again?
The Montreal Canadiens had a chance to have Markov for one season and they did not jump at it? Now, no one can know how much money that was for one year, but for Habs fans who are massively confused here, it better have been a lot of money that he wanted. If it was around the 5.75 that Markov usually asked for, then it’s going to be hard for fans to know what was the problem here. Markov played superbly last year and he also finished strongly. He didn’t show any signs of age.
Markov then went on to say that he did talk to other NHL teams and he had other options but he only wanted to play in North America in Montreal. But we weren’t done as one more shocker remained. Markov announced he would go back to Russia to play next season saying he knows the team but the signing is not official yet.
So that’s it.
He’s gone. Markov is really gone. 16 seasons and 990 games and this is the end: a scratchy phone conversation with a bunch of beeps and people talking over each other into a phone, or in this case a lot of different phones. Not much dignity for the dignified in this format.
There are no standing ovations. There’s no banner in the rafters to retire his number. No Markov love fest for the season. There’s no …. well, there’s no nothing. Not a damn thing.
How does that make any sense? How does any of this make any sense? A heart and soul guy for a generation and fans don’t get to see his heart explode from all of the love that would have surely rained down from the highest seats. Fans don’t get to see or feel or know what a magical moment it could have been.
So we are back to that never-ending battle of love versus money.
We’re left with the thought: What is the money to give up on such love? What price was not paid? What is the better plan?
That is where we all sit right now while contemplating the end of Markov – what is the better plan?
Bergevin, I believe, is an intelligent hockey man, but right now, he’s going to have to do something impressive with that $8.5 million or this refusing the one year deal is not going to sit well with the fan base. It is easy to jump and holler and scream that a great player is gone and he could have stayed. That there doesn’t seem to be a plan for the cap space that could have been spent on a partner for Weber.
The money will go somewhere. The Habs will be against the cap when this season is done.
Think of it as a trade if you will. The Habs have about $8 million to spend before they hit the cap. Markov was likely going to cost six million of those dollars. How Marc Bergevin spends that money will be how we in the end reflect on why Markov was expendable. If Bergevin gets Tavaras, then the trade on that money was Tavares for Markov and no one is going to have any trouble with that. If Bergevin uses that money on five journeymen fourth liners, then he’s got a real problem that might end up in the office of Geoff Molson.
It’s a pressure packed job being a GM. No one knows what is going on in his head because he must keep his cards close to him, so there’s an easy leap to believing he is without a plan.
As they say, the ball is in your court now, Marc. Habs fans lost Markov who they loved. That stings in the moment, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to fans. Spend that S8.5 million wisely bringing in a better first line defenceman, or a high quality first line center, then more hockey wins in 2017-18 and a playoff run will trump any nostalgia.
Let’s wait for the plan. Let’s see the plan. And in this plan, understand that it is not ‘show me the money’ this time. It’s ‘show me the player’ that you bought with the money. Not trying to sound alarmist here, but for an impatient fan base, this eight million dollar man better be good.