One piece of outstanding business remaining for Marc Bergevin is the signing of unrestricted free agent defenseman Andrei Markov to a new contract.
NHL Insider Darren Dreger was quizzed about a number of Canadiens-related subjects during his final radio hit of the year for Montreal’s TSN 690 on Tuesday morning, and was asked if he had any new information on the Markov front.
“Not really, again other than that there’s mutual interest,” said Dreger. “Markov is comfortable in Montreal with the Habs. The Montreal Canadiens still definitely want to do something to bolster their blueline. In Markov you know what you’ve got. There’s a great sense of familiarity and comfort there.
“And I think based on some of the moves that they’ve already made – some of the adjustments they’ve made to that blueline – in a perfect world, now Claude Julien can manage Markov’s minutes. But first you’ve got to get him signed. And this is that game of tug of war, back and forth.
“It gets a little bit more tricky though when you drift into days beyond July 1. Because then the player starts to go, ‘Well, wait a second. What if we play the waiting game a little bit too long and Montreal goes in a different direction. Is there another fit out there that I’m willing to accept.’
“If there is, I haven’t heard it. I haven’t heard it. So I suspect that there’s going to be a deal done between those two sides, but that’s more of a gut feeling than Inside information.”
Markov’s three-year, $17.25 million contract has expired, and the Canadiens have a little more than $14 million in projected cap space.
Aside from potentially re-signing the 38-year-old rearguard, the general manager also needs to get a new contract worked out for restricted free agent Alex Galchenyuk. Arbitration could become involved in that situation.
Acquiring help down the middle, naturally, also remains a concern for the team and would then play into the available cap space.
Dreger alluded to changes Bergevin has already made to the blueline.
Among the more notable moves, Karl Alzner signed a five-year, $23.125 million contract with the Canadiens to open free agency. That $4.625 million cap hit also comes with a modified no-trade clause for Alzner, who can submit a seven-team no-trade list.
David Schlemko was added via trade recently from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a 2019 fifth-round pick. He has three seasons remaining on a four-year, $8.4 million contract, which equates to a $2.1 million cap hit.
One rumor brought specifically to Dreger’s attention during his conversation on TSN 690 involved Markov and the possibility of interest from the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I hadn’t heard that, other than what you read on Twitter,” said Dreger. “I haven’t heard that specifically from anyone that I would deal with with the Philadelphia Flyers.
“I wouldn’t be surprised, just to backtrack a little bit here, if there was interest in Andrei Markov. I mean, the guy can still play the game and he’s an excellent defender. The character that goes along with this man doesn’t hurt either. He’s noted for being a gamer and a real competitive hockey player.
“But to say that Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers are engaging or have offered this or that, I don’t know that to be true. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t something that was at least intriguing to Markov, otherwise – I don’t believe that Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens are offering chump change here. I think that they’re being fair and reasonable and have expressed their interest and want to have Markov back into the mix.
“So whatever is holding this up must be intriguing to Markov’s side to delay the process.”
The Flyers have a little more than $6 million in projected cap space, incidentally.
Bergevin has checked a few other items off his summer list, for better or worse.
On the positive side, Carey Price’s contract extension was announced. The franchise goaltender will begin earning $10.5 million against the cap in 2018-19, thanks to that eight-year, $84 million deal. Price has one campaign left on his current pact, at a significantly less expensive $6.5 million cap hit.
Bergevin wasn’t able to secure Alex Radulov’s services though, losing the veteran winger to unrestricted free agency. Radulov signed with the Dallas Stars on Monday, agreeing to terms on a five-year, $31.25 million contract.
Were the Canadiens offering the same kind of deal? Dreger shared what he knew during the Tuesday chat on TSN 690.
Meanwhile, the waiting game continues on Markov and Bergevin’s other pressing needs for the team.