In the pre salary cap NHL, perhaps the Canadiens could show some loyalty to Andrei Markov come July 1 and give him a rich contract in the hopes he will fully recover from the knee surgery he will undergo in Alabama next Wednesday.

But even though Pierre Gauthier says in the Canadiens statement announcing the surgery Friday that, "we are very confident that Andrei will be able to fully recover from this injury," in all honesty, I don't know how justifiably confident he can really be.

And that's a very important question to ponder as Markov will be racing towards unrestricted free agency on crutches after undergoing his second reconstructive surgery on his right knee in a span of just over seven months.

Again, if there was no salary cap, the Canadiens could give Markov a rich contract, maybe hedge their bet by cutting the number of years, and everyone would be happy.

But mistake contracts are debilitating in the salary cap era, and there will need to be some real soul searching done before deciding whether or not Markov will be back in Montreal next season.

Soul searching on the part of Gauthier as to whether Markov can survive the rigours of playing over 100 games a year, which is the amount any team with Stanley Cup aspirations hopes to play. As to whether he is still worth $6 million a year for multiple years, because at that price, Markov had better be durable.

And there will also need to be some soul searching done by Markov and his agent Don Meehan as to their expectations, as to what the market will bear for a defenceman who remains in his prime in terms of age, but appears past it in terms of his body.

These are hard questions to consider right now, mere minutes after official word finally filtered out in traditional Montreal Canadiens style (e-mail received at 5:19 p.m. on a Friday afternoon with information they've surely had for days). But they are definitely questions that need to be asked and answered by the Canadiens brass over the coming months.

While they ponder over the answers to those questions, one would hope they take a cold, objective look at the situation and not one mired in sentimentality.

It's alright for fans to say Markov should be re-signed at all costs, that he's one of the best draft picks this organization has made in decades, that he is a dynamic talent that is difficult to replace, that they love him.

But unfortunately, the cap era can sometimes penalize that kind of blind loyalty.

And that's a shame, because for Markov to end his time in Montreal limping on the sidelines would be a sad end to what has become an exceptional run for him in this city.