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Decision time on Markov

Lyle Richardson
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Andrei Markov was limited to seven games this season after knee injuries became a serious problem. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

News

Decision time on Markov

Lyle Richardson
By:

A recent radio report out of Montreal that claimed Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov had been offered, and subsequently rejected, a one-year, $5.75 million contract extension was swiftly dismissed by Markov's agent, Don Meehan.

Markov, 32, missed most of this season due to a knee surgery and is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July.

The report claimed the Markov camp was seeking a three-year deal, but Meehan said he and Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier had agreed to discuss the defenseman’s contract status once the season was over.

Prior to his injury woes, Markov was considered the Canadiens’ best defenseman and the one “must-sign” of their many pending free agents this summer.

But for most of this season, the Canadiens defense played better than anticipated despite Markov's absence, thanks in part to the rise of rookie sensation P.K. Subban and the mid-season addition of James Wisniewski.

Gauthier will have to decide if it's worthwhile to gamble long-term on Markov despite his knee injuries or, given that the CBA expires next year, try to ink him to a one- or two-year deal for roughly the same $5.75 million cap hit he’s earned on his current contract.

WOULD THE RANGERS TRADE FOR RICK NASH?

In his Sunday column, Larry Brooks of the New York Post wondered “when, if ever” the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets would finally investigate what kind of return they could get by shopping team captain and franchise player Rick Nash, suggesting all the kids the New York Rangers have would “most certainly be in play.”

Hate to disappoint Brooks, but unless Nash goes to Blue Jackets management and demands a trade (and he won't), he's not going to be shopped.

Even if he were, the Rangers probably wouldn't pursue him, especially if they target Dallas Stars center Brad Richards on the free agent market this summer, as is rumored.

The Rangers can't afford to sign Richards to a $6-7 million per season contract, absorb Nash's $7.8 million and still have enough cap space (even if they moved out close to equivalent salary for Nash) to fill the rest of their roster.

WILL PASCAL LECLAIRE FIND A NEW NHL HOME?

Oft-injured goaltender Pascal Leclaire's days as an Ottawa Senator appear to be over, but he's not about to write off his NHL career.

Leclaire showed defiance in the face of concerns his lengthy injury history would spell the end of his NHL playing days, believing he'll not only make a full recovery from recent hip surgery, but also sign with another NHL team next season.

His confidence is commendable, but there's no denying his litany of injuries since 2005-06 (knee surgery in 2006, concussions in 2008 and 2010, ankle injury and broken jaw in 2009, groin and hip injuries this season) will have an adverse impact upon his free agent value this summer.

It's possible Leclaire will get a one-year deal, worth considerably less than the $3.8 million per season cap hit of his current contract, as a backup next season, but there will be plenty of affordable – and healthier – backups available.

SEMYON VARLAMOV A KHL CANDIDATE?

Another goaltender struggling with injury woes is Washington's Semyon Varlamov, who is slated to become a restricted free agent this summer.

Yahoo Sports' Dmitry Chesnokov recently reported via Twitter that Varlamov's Russian agent claimed several Kontinental League teams had expressed interest in the young netminder who, according to Chesnokov, is “considering the possibility.”

Katie Carrera of the Washington Post suggested Varlamov's future would be determined by how he performs and how many games he plays in the upcoming post-season.

Injuries have forced Varlamov to share this season's goaltending duties with Michal Neuvirth, who has played well in his teammate's absence, but Varlamov’s NHL post-season experience certainly plays to his advantage and may lead to more playoff starts.

Still, if Varlamov struggles or loses playoff time to Neuvirth, it may persuade the young Russian to bolt for the KHL, where he'll likely get more money than he would from the Capitals.

 

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.

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Decision time on Markov