The Verdict Is In: Defence Edition

Winding closer and closer to draft day and free agency, decisions must be made and as important as the ones at forward are, the ones on defence seem to be even more critical at this stage.  Whilst maintaining as much realism and optimism as possible, decisions on all impending free agent Montreal defencemen are to now be handed down.


P.K. Subban


How many times must this dance be danced? A brief summary of the laundry list of Pernell Karl Subban: Norris Trophy, 2nd in team scoring through the regular season, 1st in team scoring in the playoffs with 14 points in 17 games, the fan favorite candidate for next captain, clutch moment performer, fiercest competitor in the National Hockey League, the embodiment of what made this team the dynasty that it is.  Is this really up for any kind of debate? Is a trial here necessary? Not by any means whatsoever.  This is the easiest decision there is to make this off season.


Verdict: PAY THE MAN!!! As much money as is needed, as long as is possible.


P.K. wants to be a lifer, make him a lifer.


Douglas Murray


His point totals never have been nor will they ever be anything particularly outstanding.  A great guy in the locker room, he can be just as nice a guy from the press box or from another team entirely.  It is painfully evident that he was simply a band-aid for a problem that can easily be addressed by the likes of Jarred Tinordi and another certain defenceman that will have his own verdict handed down momentarily.


Granted, if Douglas Murray could just play games against the Boston Bruins and habitually flatten Zdeno Chara without even trying, he would be welcome to stay for as long as he so wished to play.  However, he occupies valuable space on a major league level of the Canadiens roster that could be filled by such players as Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu or –quite frankly– basically anyone else.  Not that there is debate as to any of them being ready but even if there was, they would already be a better, more skilled option than Douglas Murray.


As has already been circulated that this will be the exact result…


Verdict: Let him go.


The team will instantly be better as a result.  This team has extra parts D-men that are far superior options.


Francis Bouillon


He gets dusted from time to time, is in a bad position and forgets certain duties, there is no question.  He makes his share of mistakes and could not be played, under any circumstances, through a full 82 game schedule.  However, he has scored monumental goals and quite skillful ones at that, even during the playoffs.  Any naysayer can admit that when Bouillon did show up, it was often times in the best of times as it was when an unsuspecting hero was needed.


The fact is that Frankie Boo is by no means an expensive option and he does have some upsides.  The guy is a pit bull, somewhat similar classification to Ryan White in that he does not truly know how big or small he is but he really fails to care either or allow it to hold him back.  If nothing else, remember that he is the guy that one punched Darcy Tucker.  That in and of itself earns him licence to a lifetime contract; a relatively inexpensive one but a contract nonetheless.


Verdict: Sign him for a nominal fee as a spare part.


It is not going to hurt anything.  If he and perhaps either Drewiske or a part-timer from the Hamilton Bulldogs are the 7th and 8th defencemen, those are reasonable options.


Andrei Markov


The forwards have Gionta, the defencemen have Markov.  They are the most hotly debated free agency decisions on this team right now without question.  Andrei Markov seems to be a tad more inexplicable with a few more intangibles and tough subjects to tackle but any action taken must be considered with total and complete understanding of what must be done as a result.


Markov has been prone to both showing up in tremendous fashion in big games, seemingly turning the clock back by literally handfuls of years to the Andrei of old but he has also proven to make costly mistakes in games equally as critical, if not more so.  In any given game, which Andrei Markov is going to show up? The guy that commanded the charge against the Chicago Blackhawks in the best game of the year or the guy that failed to clear a puck against the New York Rangers and –in essence– pretty well cost this team a critical game in the Eastern Conference Finals?


Even through playoff criticisms, Markov did silently amass quite a number of points.  That has often been the story on Markov, though; he has been a killer of various volumes.  The inherent risk in allowing Andrei Markov to walk is that another 40+ point blue liner must take his place and he put up 10 points in 17 playoff games, tying P.K. Subban for 9 assists in the post-season.  Make no mistake, he is a critical cog and is a relatively large piece of what makes this team any kind of contender but there are other options out there.  The problem with said options? None of them are free agents.  The closest replacement to Markov in this year’s free agent pool would be Dan Boyle.  Could the hypothetical scenario there be worse? Absolutely but it could also be considerably better.  This, however, would need to come via a trade of considerable proportions.  Thankfully, if this were necessary, this team might just have the assets that could garner such a return.


What Markov would be well advised to remember, though, is that this team invested in him while he was down and out.  While constantly plagued by the injury bug, he had a place to stay in the league after all as the Canadiens would showcase a true act of a sports family by keeping him on board with a generous gamble of a deal.  The point being that The Russian General cannot get greedy.  He has two options: he can get paid or he can contend for the cup that does, in fact, seem to be inching ever so much closer to him now.  Where are his priorities? Discoveries of such shall be made time come a short couple weeks from now.


Verdict: Sign him for one more year.  His price point should be $5,000,000 for that one year.


Is he going to let another half a million dollars or so be what prevents him from doing what he claims to want in being a lifer in Montreal? There may be teams that would offer him 5.5, 6 or maybe even more but can they do so whilst offering him a shot at Lord Stanley’s mug? Doubtful.  Highly doubtful.


Mike Weaver


Rewind to trade deadline time.  Tell everyone that most folks will be ready to run Thomas Vanek out of town while insisting that Mike Weaver be kept on board for future seasons.  If a single soul claims to believe that, they would be the first fail a polygraph test.  A modest point total? Of course.  His +/-? A team best in the playoffs at +8 to help prove that he is, in fact, the type of third pair defenceman that teams win the Stanley Cup with.


This team has been recently blessed with such depth players and Mike Weaver, if not shared with Dale Weise, holds the sole honor of being the first example with this team of said type of player.  Canadiens fans can easily close their eyes, envision a near future Stanley Cup victory, see Weise handing it over to Weaver and skating off with it in hand and honestly say, “Yes, I can see that legitimately happening.”


Akin to Francis Bouillon, albeit perhaps more responsible in his own zone as well as other areas, Mike Weaver is both small enough to keep pace with the rest of the team and pick up that slack where the likes of Douglas Murray cannot but he also possesses the physical constitution to go to battle with any given opponent, including but not limited to Zdeno Chara… and win.  Weaver brings the kind of upsides that this team and the fan base that follows it have been craving for seemingly forever now.


Another inexpensive option with mutual interest expressed in maintaining a future between these two sides, this is a no lose situation.  If, for some inexplicable reason, this were to be a failed endeavor, how hard would it be to move an incredibly solid depth defenceman with an affordable, short term deal? This one, said with confidence, will happen.


Verdict: Sign him for another year or two at a likely projected cost of about $1,500,000; unlikely to eclipse $2,000,000.


Not a far out list of demands by any means.  It seems like a dreaded fate to ask this but: what could possibly go wrong? It seems like the very top and very bottom of this order are as good as set but all that needs to be stabilized, if anything, would be what’s in between.  The options are open but those that are decided by this to stay should be considered anything but options.


This team has turned down that street corner this summer and they smell that backyard barbecue.  Their mouths are watering as they are progressing down the block.  It is now only a matter of identifying which house the scent is emanating from.  Where there’s smoke, there’s fire and this team is just starting to spark all over again.


Stay tuned for future looks at potential trading pieces and free agency acquisitions in future columns.


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(For more photographs like the one used in the feature for this column, contact Steve Irwin at: – Sirwin Canada)

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One Response to The Verdict Is In: Defence Edition

  1. Dont agree with Bouillon. Let him go, theres enough guys here to fill his role anyway. Markov isn’t going to take a pay cut and shouldn’t.

    Michael Gomez June 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm Reply

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