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Canadiens duo stays focused as deadline looms

by James Murphy

BROSSARD, Quebec -- Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov was welcomed back from the 2014 Sochi Olympics on Tuesday by the local media with questions surrounding his contract status with the team and the March 5 trade deadline.

TSN 690 radio host Tony Marinaro reported Monday that Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin had offered the 35-year-old defenseman, who can become an unrestricted free agent July 1, a one-year contract worth "just over $6 million." Marinaro also reported that Markov and his new agent, Sergei Berezin, countered with a three-year contract proposal, but that Bergevin indicated he wants to go one year at a time with Markov.

When asked to confirm if the Canadiens had made him an offer, Markov appeared taken aback.

"Who said that?" he asked.

When told that it was Marinaro, Markov sarcastically replied:

"Probably I guess he was over at the meetings? Like I said, I have nothing to say right now. Wherever you guys [the media] try fishing or whatever, that's up to you."

Earlier in the media scrum, Markov again made it clear that he wants to remain in Montreal, but reiterated that he could only control what happens on the ice.

"It's still in progress and there's nothing I can say right now," Markov said of the contract talks. "I'm going to focus on my game. Whatever comes of it, then we'll decide and see what happens. I already said that I want to stay here and I love it here. I like the organization and the fans and the city. But I can't control it and it's not up to me, so I'll just try to enjoy every moment."

Markov was limited to 20 games over the course of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons due to knee injuries, but recovered from major surgery and put up 31 points in 48 games in 2012-13 and 31 in 59 games this season.

"I'll leave that [to the media], and right now I'm just gonna focus on my game," Markov said of trade speculation. "I just want to try and focus and try to help our team be better on the ice."

Markov isn't the only key unrestricted free agent-to-be that Bergevin must decide on. Captain Brian Gionta is also set to hit the market July 1. Following practice Tuesday, Gionta acknowledged some uncertainty regarding his future in Montreal, but like Markov he plans to stay focused on helping his current teammates make the playoffs.

"I'm not sure, really," Gionta answered when asked what he thinks may happen. "You don't know what you'll be approached with but like I said all along, I'm worried about helping this team win game in and game out and not worried about what happens down the road. You can worry about it all the time and it's no different because the deadline's coming. I've had to deal with expiring contracts throughout my career. It's nothing new."

Gionta, who is also 35, has 29 points in 58 games. The Rochester, N.Y., native said that regardless of what happens he'll hold no hard feelings toward Bergevin.

"It's business at the end of the day and I've enjoyed every bit I've been here," Gionta said. "I think that Marc is doing a great job for this organization. He's done a great job of being there for the players and finding ways to turn this organization around. He's doing a great job."

Gionta acknowledged he's been keeping tabs on what may happen with former New Jersey Devils teammate Martin Brodeur, with whom he won a Stanley Cup in 2003. Brodeur, 41, is also headed for free agency; the Montreal native has told the media on more than one occasion that he would be open to a trade if it made sense for the Devils and him.

Gionta said he can't imagine Brodeur in another uniform.

"It would be tough for sure," Gionta said. "You think of him, you think of the Devils. But it's one of those rare things that it's gotten this far in a sport like this, especially in the new era and the last 10 years or so with the salary cap and to be able to hold onto guys long term. It's definitely special to see him still there. It definitely would be weird, but he has to do what's best for him and his group."

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