Former Canadiens defenceman Andrei Markov eyeing NHL return

Andrei-Markov

Andrei Markov spent 16 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. (Paul Sancya/AP)

Andrei Markov has spent the past two seasons in the KHL, but the veteran defenceman is reportedly eyeing a return to the NHL for the 2019-20 campaign.

If it were up to Markov, his North American comeback would be with the only NHL club he suited up for during his 16-season NHL career – the Montreal Canadiens.

“I know I’m 40, but it doesn’t feel like I’m 40,” Markvov told Stu Cowen of the Montreal Gazette. “I worked hard over the summer and I’ve done some stuff I never did before. I put in lots of work this summer and I’m looking forward … we’ll see what’s going to happen.”

Markov signed a two-year deal with Ak Bars Kazan as a free agent following the 2016-17 NHL campaign, after he and the Canadiens couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract. Markov sought a multi-year offer then, something the Canadiens reportedly weren’t willing to make.

The Russian didn’t want to explore other NHL options two years ago, but he did leave the door open for an eventual return.

“I will never forget my time here,” Markov said at the time. “I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team. I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

Markov was also just 10 games away from earning his silver stick when he decided to sign overseas. If he joins an NHL team this year and makes double-digit appearances, he’ll become the eighth Russian in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game milestone.

“It’s important … but most important probably is to try to play one more year in the NHL, to prove that I can still play in that level,” Markov told Cowen.

Unlike the case in 2017, it doesn’t appear to be a Canadiens-or-bust situation for Markov.

“You never know,” Markov added. “Right now, I’m going to say ‘why not?’ For example, if the Canadiens don’t want me anymore and any other team gives me an offer or gives me an opportunity to play, I’ll probably take that.”

Markov was selected by the Canadiens in the sixth round (162nd overall) of the 1998 NHL Draft and accumulated 572 points in his 990 games. He ranks sixth all-time in games played in a Canadiens uniform behind Claude Provost (1,005), Jean Beliveau (1,125), Bob Gainey (1,160), Larry Robinson (1,202) and Henri Richard (1,258) and is among the franchise’s all-time leading scorers from the back end.

Markov told Cowen he misses “everything” about Montreal.

“When you step on the ice you feel the fans, they’re so passionate and they support each game and you feel like the crowd’s got your back behind you,” he said. “That feeling is kind of like something special, you know.”

The Canadiens currently have approximately $4 million in salary cap space and the blue line has a dearth of talent compared to other Atlantic Division teams.

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