Sophie's Gainey's Choice
It's not quite as heart-wrenching as Muckler's Chara/Redden dilemma, but it's a tough decision nonetheless. Complicating matters is heart&soul guy Craig Rivet will also be a UFA come season's end.
Sheldon says Markov should be the top priority. I like the way the big guy thinks. Souray is arguably the most entertaining individual on the team. His strengths are his huge shot and sledgehammer fists. One would expect a player this noticeable to catch the eye of GMs like Doug MacLean, which would drive up his pricetag. Markov on the other hand plays a more passive, less spectacular, and less expensive game. For some insight regarding which type of player is more effective in the salary cap era, take a look at the Buffalo Sabres.
To get a feel for what this trio of defensemen cost to sign, I've made a quick & dirty list of somewhat comparable players who recently signed contracts/extensions. Players in Canadian cities are probably more valid comparisons, since they are paying similar taxes.
Souray comparables, from low-end to high-end:
Joe Corvo - 4 yr, $2.625M per year
Philippe Boucher - 3 years, $2.5M
Jaroslav Spacek - 3 years, $3.3M
Adrian Aucoin - 4 years, $4M
Pavel Kubina - 4 years, $5M
A complicating factor is Souray's huge season currently underway. If he maintains his current pace, he's looking at >$5M. Aucoin is an interesting case. He developed from a one dimensional player - a guy with a great shot - into a renowned workhorse. Remember Aucoin's 98-99 season in Vancouver? 23 goals, 11 assists in 82 games. Souray was never this one-dimensional. He could always fight, too. He may yet turn into a solid defender, but I'm not holding my breath.
Mike Van Ryn - 4 years, $2.9M per year
Filip Kuba - 3 years, $3M
Marek Zidlicky - 4 years, $3.35M
Tomas Kaberle - 5 years, $4.25M
Defensemen with Markov's combination of age, experience and numbers are rare. Kaberle has accomplished a bit more, and should provide a ceiling. I'd love to see this guy signed long term. Git 'r' done, Bob!
Hal Gill - 3 years, $2.075M per
Steve Staios - 4 years, $2.7M
Aaron Ward - 2 years, $2.75M
Another good comp might be Chris Phillips, who will also be eligible for UFA. Rivet is currently making $2.5M. It can be insulting to ask a guy to take a pay cut, so I can't see him taking less than that. He may be popular, but if you're being objective you have to admit that Rivet is an average player. You can't win in a capped environment paying above average salaries to average players. If he is signed, let's hope for a hometown discount.
From Sabermetric Research:
"The teams owned by institutions or corporations made 12.5% (Leafs), 5.8% (Rangers), 0.3% (Flyers), and 7.6% (Canadiens)."
Yes, the Leafs are making more than the Canadiens. Drycleaning all those Stanley Cup banners really cuts into the profits.