Andrei Markov had a tremendous start to his season, but he's taken a bit of heat from Montréal Canadiens fans for sub-par play more or less since the new year, with a few boos being heard in the Bell Centre and some internet chatter requesting GM Marc Bergevin trade him for draft picks in a tanking effort.
Regular readers know I won't be one of those. Markov's play this past decade warrants him retiring with the team, and he will not be overpaid next year with his $5.75M cap hit in his (hopefully) final season for the sole reason that he's played at around the same salary for the past five years and played better than anyone else making that much in the NHL, so one season below value balances out four that he played well over.
He was the best player on the team for the better part of his tenure, equaled here and there for short stints by the likes of Jaroslav Halak, Michael Cammalleri, and Saku Koivu which, you'll agree, is relatively sad for a legendary franchise.
So, should his minutes be cut down to plateau around 20 minutes per game? Probably. And, hey, 20 minutes per game is still top-two minutes, which he likely still is. Retiring at that level (assuming he retires when his contract ends in 2016-17) would put him close to the Nicklas Lidstrom category, therefore above that of a Zdeno Chara, which is also where I see his legacy falling into.
That is to say, I was probably the best person to fall on this two-colour swatch card of his from Panini's 2012-13 Titanium set (and Game-Worn Gear sub-set):