The recent knee injury to Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov will not only sideline him for the remainder of the season, but also casts his future with the club in doubt.
Markov, 31, re-injured the same knee he had surgery on in the off-season and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. His recent injury history – he also missed 37 games last season with ankle surgery – will impact contract extension talks with the Canadiens.
Red Fisher of the Montreal Gazette believes this puts Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier in a tough spot, as he faces the prospect of either re-signing Markov for big bucks despite his injuries, trading him, or letting him walk, perhaps to the Kontinental League where Markov would likely get more money than he would via NHL free agency.
Markov’s injury prevents Gauthier from moving him at the February trade deadline, but should the blueliner return for the playoffs and perform well, the GM would have the option of trading Markov during the June draft if a contract extension is not reached.
It’s also possible Gauthier will offer up a one-year contract, paying Markov up to the equivalent of his current $5.75 million salary with the promise of a more lucrative offer should he go injury-free throughout next season.
Ordinarily, a serious injury to Montreal’s top defenseman would send Gauthier scrambling to find a short-term replacement via trade or free agency, but the Canadiens have played well during Markov’s absence this season so there’s no hurry to make a move.
Gauthier currently has less than $1.1 million in available cap space, but placing Markov on long-term injury reserve would allow the Habs to spend over the cap by nearly $4.9 million for additional depth later in the season.
The Canadiens could use a big scoring forward and Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun recently wondered if they’d take right winger Alex Kovalev back.
Kovalev was beloved in Montreal, but given his age (37) and declining production over the past two years, Gauthier would be wise to look elsewhere should he see the need to bolster his offense.
LANGENBRUNNER STANDS BEHIND COACH JOHN MACLEAN
The New Jersey Devils’ continuing struggles led team captain Jamie Langenbrunner to admit he expects GM Lou Lamoriello to do something soon to address the situation.
However, Langenbrunner told the New York Post he doesn’t believe coach John MacLean should be fired, pointing out the problem is with the players and if a change had to be made it should be one of them.
It was noble of Langenbrunner to stick up for MacLean, but as Post reporter Mark Everson observed, replacing the coach might be Lamoriello’s only option.
Nine Devils have a no-movement or no-trade clause (forwards Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias, Brian Rolston, Jason Arnott and Langenbrunner, defensemen Anton Volchenkov and Colin White and goaltenders Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg) and it would be difficult to make a season-saving deal now.
If the problem rests with the current Devils roster they’re going to have to work it out themselves because it appears no outside help is coming.
PHILADELPHIA’S GOALIE CLUTTER
The Philadelphia Flyers were able to push back the return of goaltender Michael Leighton as the league granted their request to extend his conditioning stint with their farm club for another week.
Leighton is returning from back surgery and GM Paul Holmgren feels he’s not quite ready for NHL action, but there’s more to the story.
Their current goalie tandem of rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and backup Brian Boucher has played well, so Holmgren doesn’t want to break them up right now.
He could carry Leighton as a third goaltender, but his $1.55 million salary would push the team above the salary cap.
Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News examined potential options for Holmgren, including keeping Leighton on LTI (provided doctors agree he’s not fully recovered), placing Ian Laperriere on LTI, trading or waiving defenseman Matt Walker or moving either Dan Carcillo or Nik Zherdev in a trade.
Ideally, Holmgren would likely prefer to shop Leighton, but there won’t be much interest in him at this point in time.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.