One of the big uncertainties facing the Habs this off-season is who will join Weber, Petry, and Alzner in the Habs top-4. Last year, that void was filled by Andrei Markov. While the Habs are interested in re-signing Markov, the two sides have yet to arrive at an agreement. Reports have Markov asking for 2 years at $6M per season; with the Habs looking at 1-year in the ~$5M range. Today we look at Andrei Markov’s value with the Habs and assess what his “market value” might be.
As we discussed during our Habs deep-dive (link here), Markov was one of the Habs’ best defensemen in 2016/17. Despite facing above average 2nd line QoC, he showed he still has the strong ability as a possession driver that has been his bread and butter throughout his career (PMF +0.95).
To assess his market value, we look at 4 other defensemen who faced very similar QoC (i.e., strong QoC; think top 2nd line / lower-end 1st line). The reason for this approach is that QoC is a huge factor in creating an “uneven” playing field between two players. Our QoC model – regression built – is by no means perfect, but still provides a strong indication of similar QoC. In other words, it creates a more even playing field for comparison.
*Note: These are not the only 4 other defensemen who fall under the same QoC. They make for interesting comparison points and were therefore selected.
In terms of PMF, Markov +0.95 in 2016/17 led the way. Those are really strong puck movement / possession numbers – Markov consistently elevated the play of his teammates and helped generate scoring chances. Faulk and Muzzin were also very strong as puck movers in 2016/17. While Fowler and Larsson’s PMF scores are slightly lower, they’re still solid considering the tough QoC that each defenseman faced.
Our DAM metric measures a players ability to minimize scoring chances. In a defenseman’s context, that refers to clogging scoring lanes, keeping shots to the outside, minimizing second chances, etc. Again, Markov was particularly effective in this area, posting the highest DAM (+5.31) of the 5 players.
The biggest knock on Markov is age. At 38 years old, it’s reasonable to expect additional decline in his play. Comparatively, it’s even fair to assume some of the younger defensemen (e.g., Larsson is only 24) will continue to improve. That forward looking projection should definitely factor into the assessment.
Verdict on a deal
Market average. The average cap hit of the 4 comparable defensemen is $4.9M per season. That seems in line with what you would expect to pay Andrei Markov. While his numbers as a puck mover – and defensively – in 2016/17 might theoretically be ‘higher’, age and potential decline should absolutely factor in to any negotiation.
Latest deals. There’s also the important factor of “latest market value”. Larsson, Faulk, and Muzzin signed their deals a few years ago. Fowler’s latest cap hit of $6.5M per season might set the market from a performance standpoint. But again, when you factor in age and decline, sub $6M might be more realistic.
Specific team context. A third important factor is the gap between market value and team value. While Markov’s league-wide comparative assessment might indicate you should pay him ~$5M for one year (in line with Habs offer), the specific context surrounding the team at hand should be weighed accordingly. In Montreal’s case, they are in a win now mentality. Losing Markov, who was excellent last season, would be a tremendous blow to their 2017/18 outlook. Given that – and available cap room – “overpaying” at $6M per year and giving one extra year of term might be a gamble worth taking.
Already one week has passed since free agency opened. With Markov unsigned, it’s clear teams are hesitant to give a 2-year commitment (every team faces a different cap-situation). In Montreal’s case, giving Markov 2 years appears to be a risk worth taking as losing #79 will create a big hole that will certainly be tough to fill.