He's spent his entire NHL career in Montreal, but many thought this summer might be time for a change of scenery.
was drafted by the Canadiens in the sixth round (No. 162) of the 1998 Entry Draft, and since he made his NHL debut with the team during the 2000-01 season he's developed into a player known for great vision, strong puck-moving ability and composure on the ice.
He also has some offensive prowess. Markov, who has averaged more than 22 minutes per game over his 10 NHL seasons, has 81 goals and 285 assists in 623 games.
With his four-year $23 million deal with Montreal set to expire on July 1, Markov was on the verge of testing the free agent market, but the Habs have nipped that fear -- the dreams of several other teams -- in the bud, signing the steady blueliner to a three-year deal woth $17.25 million this week. In fact, the deal may well have set the market for the 2011 defensemen free agent class.
With Markov off the market there is one less veteran available, but teams in need of help on the back end shouldn't fret. Several quality defensemen will still be available when the clock strikes noon on July 1:
TOP DEFENSEMEN OVER 35
Roman Hamrlik (37)
-- He's a shot blocker, a hard hitter and he can play some offense, too. Hamrlik is a solid all-round defenseman, and has been a reliable presence on any team he's played for over the last 18 seasons. The first pick of the 1992 Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning
, he's amassed 624 points in 1,311 games. He's spent the last four seasons with the Canadiens, and in three of them he's finished top five in the League in blocked shots. He's also played at least 70 games 14 times in the last 15 seasons.
Sami Salo (36)
-- Salo has been plagued with injuries throughout his 12-season NHL career -- he's played more than 70 games in a season just twice, and not at all since 2003-04. This season he played in only 27 regular-season games for the Canucks. But the two-way defenseman, known for his hard slap shot, remains useful on the power play and the penalty kill. With his injury history, he might have to take a pay cut from the $3.5 million he's making this season.
Niclas Wallin (36)
-- He's a veteran defenseman with playoff experience. Hurricanes fans used to call Wallin "The Secret Weapon" due to his knack for scoring clutch goals, especially in the postseason. He has 4 career playoff goals -- but three have come in overtime, while the fourth was the winner in Game 2 of the 2011 Western Conference Semifinals with the Sharks.
Bryan McCabe (35)
-- The Rangers acquired McCabe at the trade deadline in the hopes of finding a veteran blue line presence who could quarterback the power play. Things didn't exactly work out, though, as their power play went 1-for-20 in a first-round playoff loss to the Capitals. Still, McCabe has some firepower left in him and would be a solid addition to any young team.
TOP DEFENSIVE DEFENSEMEN
-- The 32-year-old has averaged 21:55 minutes per game over his 12-year NHL career. Hannan is steady and sturdy -- he's played at least 75 games in each of the last 10 seasons and has only recorded 484 penalty minutes in his 830 career NHL games.
-- Sopel, 34, has played for six different teams during his 12 NHL seasons, and ended this season with the Montreal Canadiens
. He won a Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, and has a reputation as being both cerebral and disciplined. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Sopel has accumulated only 309 penalty minutes in his 659 NHL games.
TOP OFFENSIVE DEFENSEMEN
-- The 34-year-old veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games likely will be one of the most desirable defensemen on the market this year. He's a gritty, physical player, but also has the skill to quarterback a power play. He has at least 9 goals in four of the last five seasons, and this season he became the first defenseman in Coyotes/Jets franchise history to record a hat trick.
-- There were high expectations placed upon Kaberle when the Bruins acquired the 33-year-old in a mid-season trade with Toronto. He never really fulfilled what was expected from him, but he did help Boston reach the Stanley Cup Final. Kaberle has scored at least 47 points in five of the last six seasons and remains a threat any time he's on the power play.