Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Markov Finally Returns to Roster, but for How Long?

Scott WeldonCorrespondent IMarch 16, 2012

VANCOUVER, CANADA - MARCH 10: Andrei Markov #79 of the Montreal Canadiens clears the puck from the front of the net as goalie Carey Price 331 looks on during the third period in NHL action against the Vancouver Canucks on March 10, 2012 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This was Markov's first game of the year after knee surgery.   (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
Rich Lam/Getty Images

Injuries have kept defenseman Andrei Markov out of the lineup for the better part of the last three seasons. The last time he played a near-full season was 2008-09, when he had 64 points in 78 games.

At that time, he was the best defenseman on the team, and one of the better puck-movers in the league.

It has been three long depressing years for Markov since then. The team has waited for him ever since, suffering through three aborted returns since then. This latest return has to have Canadiens fans wondering if Markov can ever play a role on an NHL team again, let alone return to the level of play he last showed at age 30.

Despite Markov's injury-prone history, Montreal GM Pierre Gauthier signed him to a three-year, $5.75 million-per-year contract during the offseason.

So far, he has managed to play three games in the first season of his new contract before getting hurt again. he is expected to miss tonight's game with the Ottawa Senators after taking a puck to the face versus the Senators Wednesday night.

The 33-year-old has looked fine so far. His experience and puck-moving ability could still be useful for a team like the Canadiens, awash in young defenseman. But how much have the multiple leg injuries effected his skating? Can he even stay healthy in the NHL? All these questions have yet to be answered.

Markov has returned too late to have any chance at salvaging this lost season in Montreal. The belief that he will be able to contribute even in a mentor's role might be fading. If he can't, Montreal will have another huge contract for a player who can't play any more.

Let's hope—for his and the team's sake—that Andrei Markov can return to the line-up and stay healthy.