Not re­turn­ing to Habs

De­fence­man An­drei Markov leav­ing the Cana­di­ens, join­ing KHL next sea­son

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - SPORTS - BY BILL BEA­CON

Af­ter 16 sea­sons with the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, de­fence­man An­drei Markov is head­ing back to Rus­sia.

The 38-year-old said on a con­fer­ence call on Thurs­day that he will play in the KHL and pos­si­bly the Win­ter Olympics next sea­son af­ter fail­ing to reach agree­ment on a new deal with Mon­treal.

Markov said he was not in­ter­ested in skat­ing for any other NHL club than Mon­treal, where he played 990 games and put up num­bers that placed him among the best de­fence­men in the sto­ried club’s his­tory. And he did not rule out re­turn­ing to the Cana­di­ens — or to the NHL — one day.

“It is tough,” he said. “I made it clear at the end of the sea­son that I wanted to stay with the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens for the rest of my ca­reer.

“It didn’t hap­pen. It’s a busi­ness. I’m not blam­ing any­one. I’m ready to move for­ward. But it is tough that I’m not go­ing to play my 1,000th game for the Cana­di­ens. At least not this year.”

He did not name his new KHL team be­cause he has not yet signed a con­tract.

The move is a blow to the Cana­di­ens, who lose a first-rate passer and puck mover who was solid at both ends of the rink de­spite lim­ited mo­bil­ity from age and three ma­jor knee in­juries ear­lier in his ca­reer.

Markov elected to rep­re­sent him­self in ne­go­ti­a­tions with gen­eral man­ager Marc Bergevin rather than use an agent be­cause, while he drew in­ter­est from other NHL clubs, he knew that he would only talk to Mon­treal and fig­ured it would go smoothly. He has earned the same av­er­age an­nual salary of US$5.75 mil­lion in three con­tracts over the past 10 sea­sons.

He con­firmed re­ports that he was ini­tially seek­ing a two-year con­tract, but by the end was ready to ac­cept a one-year ex­ten­sion. He gave no de­tails on why the talks fell through.

Then the father of four, who got his Cana­dian ci­ti­zen­ship in 2010, de­cided to take his fam­ily to Rus­sia.

“I didn’t see my­self with any other NHL team,” he said. “I didn’t see my­self wear­ing an­other jer­sey.

“Plus it’s go­ing to be tough for the kids to move for one year to an­other city in North Amer­ica. It’s go­ing to be eas­ier for them to adapt in Rus­sia.”

It’s been an emo­tional year for Markov. He re­turned to Rus­sia in Fe­bru­ary to bring his twin five-year-old sons back to Canada when his for­mer part­ner died of can­cer. Ear­lier this month he mar­ried Sonya Sonechka, with whom he has a one-year-old daugh­ter. He also has a 10-year-old son.

“It’s sad to leave but it’s life and it’s a busi­ness,” he said. “I un­der­stand, but I’m look­ing for­ward to new op­por­tu­ni­ties and I’m happy I have my fam­ily next to me. To­day’s a sad day but to­mor­row is go­ing to be an­other day.”

It ap­pears to have been an am­i­ca­ble part­ing.

The Cana­di­ens thanked him and wished him good luck on Twit­ter.

Markov’s 990 reg­u­lar-sea­son games are sixth most among Cana­di­ens de­fence­men.

His 199 goals are third-most by a Mon­treal rear­guard and his 572 points tie him with Guy La­pointe for sec­ond in team his­tory. He added five goals and 27 as­sists in 89 play­off games.

AP PHOTO/TOM MIHALEK, FILE

In this Feb. 2, 2017, file photo, Mon­treal Cana­di­ens’ An­drei Markov moves the puck dur­ing an NHL hockey game in Philadel­phia.

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