Depends entirely on how he does the rest of this year, and how FA-to-be signings happen. I can't see wanting a guy like Hamrlik in the top 4 over a guy like Erhoff, and if Erhoff is 4 mil per and Hamrlik wants 3, its clear we go younger.
On the other hand, we all saw what bargains could be had in August with veterans who haven't been able to find a place to play. Halpern was clearly better then the 4th liners of the majority of NHL teams, but nobody had cap room/wanted to waste cap room. If Hammer is asking 3 and nobody is willing to pay that, we could pick him back up at a big discount later in the FA period. Gives us time to peruse the FA market in July and still fill our need later.
One thing is clear though, we need to sign Markov/Gorges before going into the FA period, much like we did with Pleks. Makes July 1 so much easier to navigate.
I also think that whatever we do, we organize things so that Markov and Subban get two complimentary players who can log big minutes with them. Assuming we re-sign Markov longterm, our D will be focused on those two pairings getting 45-48 minutes a game for a long, long time. Recognizing that this off-season and planning for it is pretty important. (Meaning, no Erhoff if he doesn't fit on either side of those two guys.) Lets make the pieces fit together perfectly.
Hammer and Subban are very good together, and Markov-Gorges is as well. I have zero problem with Hammer being our #4, since he's proved he's strong defensively, is a veteran presence, and has shown he can log big minutes.
After that, our #5 and #6 can be filled in with just about anybody. Tons of guys will be on the market to fill those roles, and we have bottom pairing depth in the organization. Spacek obviously has one spot, and I don't care if its Gill or anybody else for #6, as long as they are reasonably responsible defensively and don't cost more then 1.5 mil. Idealy this pairing doesn't play more then 13-14 minutes a game.
And if we decide that Spacek is horrible for this role, I don't want him in the top 4 because of it. Eat his last year if we have to in that case.
As I wrote before, I think that 2 of Gill, Hammer, and Spacek should go this offseason. So, that means that unless we can unload Spacek on someone, the two to go will be Gill and Hammer.
Our D is too old, slow, and soft. And if we keep most/all of Gill, Hammer, and Spacek it's only going to get older, slower, and softer still. I think that either could still help this team out in a bottom pairing role, but that's it. Neither should be getting top 4 pairing minutes next season with us, imo.
Now, I recognize the veteran stability that either of these guys can bring to the table, but we don't need all of them for that. Not to mention that a healthy Markov provides plenty of that himself.