MONTREAL—In an interview with Le Journal de Montreal’s Jonathan Bernier, released late this past Thursday, Andrei Markov voiced his displeasure at not coming to terms with the Montreal Canadiens on a contract extension this past summer that would’ve allowed him to play a 17th season in their uniform and surpass the 1,000-game mark in the NHL.
Markov and wife Sonya Sonechka were outspoken on the breakdown of negotiations with the Canadiens that ultimately led him to sign a two-year deal with AK Bars Kazan of the KHL.
The very mention of Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin’s name got a rise out of Sonechka, according to Bernier.
“Don’t even talk to me about him,” she said. “It’s a very delicate subject for me. I have my opinion on it, but I’m better off keeping it to myself.
“The Canadiens were Andrei’s family and Montreal was his home. When people ask him where he’s from, he tells them he’s from Voskresensk (Russia) but his home is in Montreal.”
When Markov’s former agent, Sergei Berezin, was decertified by the NHLPA Markov elected to represent himself in negotiations with the Canadiens.
It’s clear that the process has left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“As an athlete and as a person who spent 16 years of their life in Montreal, I’d have liked it if they had respected me,” said Markov. “That’s all I was asking for from the team.”
“I’m going to be honest with you,” added Markov. “There was practically no negotiations with Montreal. I got two or three offers from them and they said, ‘Either you sign or you don’t sign.’
“No one listened to me and no one wanted to listen to me. That’s what happened. So I had the choice to sign on their terms or to leave and find a new team.”
Canadiens owner Geoff Molson released a statement made in French to TVA Sports earlier on Friday in response to the Journal de Montreal report, saying the franchise was always respectful towards Markov.
“I can tell you that on our end, the Montreal Canadiens have always treated Andrei Markov with a lot of respect—as a player for the 16 years he played for us and during negotiations, too,” said Molson. “We will continue to treat him with lots of respect now and in the future. He will always be a member of our organization and we are very proud of him. We are an organization that always treats players the right way.”
As Bernier mentioned in his report, Bergevin had said at the Canadiens golf tournament in September that he had made an offer to Markov that would’ve allowed him to make his desired salary through performance bonuses once he had come off his demand for a two-year contract and was willing to sign for only one year.
“Yes, there were bonuses,” Markov confirmed. “But it wasn’t a question of money, it was a question of the way it was presented to me. We didn’t even talk. I didn’t like the way they made their offer. There were no discussions. Just an offer made and that’s it.”
Markov has since scored four goals and added 15 assists for 19 points in 39 games with Kazan. He ranks 11th in points among defencemen in the KHL and is committed to seeing his contract with them to term.
“They gave me the two years I wanted,” Markov said. “I don’t want to break my word. I’m not going to put the people who put their faith in me in a bad position. They accepted giving me a two-year deal and I’m going to thank them by respecting the deal.”
As for one day returning to Montreal, Markov still hasn’t stricken the possibility. He’s still holding out hope he can get from 990 games to 1,000 games with the Canadiens.
“It’s a step I’d like to accomplish, but I didn’t get to do it in Montreal,” Markov said. “Maybe that will happen at some point, but not at the moment.
“No matter what, I still don’t regret my decision to come back to Russia. We made the choice that was in the best interest of my family, and right now that’s the most important thing in my life.”
No Olympics for Markov
Markov also mentioned he doesn’t expect to be selected for the Olympic team that will go to the Pyeongchang Games this winter, though he believes Russians should be happy to go—even if they won’t be able to play with the Russian flag on their jerseys.
“It’s obviously a bit unfortunate for the athletes to not be able to take part in competitions under our flag and under the Russian national anthem, but everyone will still know they are Russian,” said Markov. “The Olympic Games are big for any athlete. For some, it’ll be a unique occasion to participate.
“You prepare your body, and you make enormous sacrifices. That’s why I’m encouraging them to go and participate and do their best.”
As for the idea Markov could compete for Canada as someone who holds both Russian and Canadian citizenship, he does not hold the proper certification to do so—according to the International Ice Hockey Federation.
In order for an athlete to compete for a different country than one he’s previously suited up for, he must have an international transfer card that is approved by the proper authorities within four years of the start of the event. Markov doesn’t have one.