The Montreal Canadiens face a tough decision this offseason when it comes to their longest tenured player, Andrei Markov. The high scoring defenseman will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st, and Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin will have to try and find a contract that makes sense for both sides.
Markov is coming off another successful season where he scored 43 points in 81 games, putting his lengthy injury history further in the past and showing he can still contribute at a high level. The problem with bringing him back to the Canadiens next season is he wants a three year deal. At 35 years of age, Markov’s skating and defensive game are slipping, and it is just a matter of time before his offensive game starts to diminish as well.
A three year deal is just too risky for the Habs. What if Markov takes a step back next season and is suddenly a defensive liability and can only score 30 points? Then the team is stuck with him for two more years at about 6 million dollars. He still brings value to the Habs, and will probably have a productive season this upcoming year. After that he might have a second year where he is worth 6 million, but it is highly doubtful he will live up to that cap hit in the third year of a three year deal.
So, here is what I would propose to Andrei Markov if I were running the Montreal Canadiens. I would take a look at the contract that Kimmo Timonen signed this afternoon, and tell Markov a similar contract is in the best interest of both parties involved.
Timonen signed a contract today with a base salary of 2 million dollars, and several bonuses that will not be difficult to reach that total an additional 2 million dollars. The base salary counts against the Philadelphia Flyers cap this season, but the bonuses are moved to next season if they are reached. It is really just paying a player for one year, but spreading the cap hit out over two seasons.
I would tell Markov that if he wants to remain with the only team he has played for in his career, he will have to take his mind off a three year extension. What I would propose is a one year contract with a base salary of 4 million dollars, and several bonuses that could see him earn an additional 3 million for a total of 7 million dollars next season.
The bonuses don’t have to be lofty goals, in fact it would be the total opposite. The goals would be designed so that Markov can easily achieve them and guarantee his 7 million dollar payday. They could be something like a 1.5 million dollar bonus for playing 25 games and a 1.5 million dollar bonus for reaching 50 games played. This way the Habs aren’t on the hook next season if Markov is injured for most of the year.
Markov would pocket the 7 million by the end of next season, but the Habs could spread the cap hit out over two years. With the cap projected to skyrocket again a year from now, a 3 million dollar bonus to Markov will be an easy pill to swallow. This way the Habs would get one more productive year from the Russian defenseman, and it would cost them only 4 million against the cap this season, and 3 million next season. Markov is not going to get a 7 million dollar offer for next season from anyone, so it may be enough to entice him to sign it instead of a three year deal at 6 million per season.
The idea is to keep Markov around, but for just one more season as he is in the twilight of his career. Having him count against the cap for 3 million in 2015-16 when he is playing elsewhere is not ideal, but it is the term that is the big risk with the veteran defenseman, and a one year deal is as low risk as it is going to get.
This seems to be the only way to get Markov to sign a one year contract, as just giving him a one year deal at 7 million would not work under the current cap. It may be a little too early in his career to start signing one year contracts with bonuses, but if Markov wants to remain with the Canadiens, this might be the only way to make it happen.