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There’s little doubt Markov would have gotten the same $5.75 million salary—if not more—on the open market had he decided to pursue free agency. Looking at this year’s crop of free-agent defensemen, Markov arguably ranks at the very top of the list in terms of what he can bring to a team.
As a result, one team would have overpaid for his services. It may as well have been the Canadiens. In that sense, the deal wasn't a bad one. It may have even been necessary, looking at Montreal's defensive corps.
While Markov’s defensive game has somewhat atrophied over the past few years, it’s his offensive, puck-moving skills that make him almost irreplaceable at the moment. Aside from P.K. Subban, Markov is the only full-time defenseman on the team that is an offensive threat.
Sure, Greg Pateryn scored at a half-point-per-game clip with the Hamilton Bulldogs this past year and Nathan Beaulieu’s projected to be a power-play quarterback of sorts. However, until those skills emerge at the NHL level, you never really know what you’ve got.
The deal may not be perfect—not by a long shot. However, with a general lack of young and effective offensive defensemen available this summer via free agency, it was perhaps a necessary evil. The Canadiens essentially went with the devil they know. And, boy, do they know Markov.
He’s a wizard with the puck, somewhat less so without it, a quiet leader, someone’s who’s dedicated to the organization and, now, a Montreal Canadien still.