Over the course of the last several weeks, defenceman Andrei Markov was one of the most valuable unrestricted free agents in the NHL. Now, it looks like the 38-year-old is done in the NHL and will be returning to his native Russia and the KHL.

The blueliner hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his storied career and things didn’t go well. He was unable to work out a contract with the Montreal Canadiens, the team he spent 990 career games with, and he had no interest in signing with another NHL club.

“My decision was made based on the family as well,” Markov said. “I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team, I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey. Plus, it was going to be tough for the family, for the kids to move for one year to another city in North America. For them, it will be easy to adapt over there in Russia. So that was our decision and that’s it.”

Markov, who was drafted by the Habs in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, was seeking a two-year contract with Montreal at the outset. But things evolved with the signing of goalie Carey Price on July 2 and money was tight for the Canadiens, which led Markov to adjust his demands.

“In the beginning, yes, I was asking [for] two years,” Markov said. “It’s more for the security of my family and myself. I feel great, I’m in good shape. I’m not planning to retire anytime soon. Don’t worry about that, guys. But in the end, I was ready to just to stay in Montreal. I was ready and willing to sign a one-year deal. It didn’t work. I don’t want to go through the details, but it didn’t work.”

And so, the man who played for seven different coaches in Montreal is finished. He spent 16 seasons with the franchise.

Markov leaves the Habs in second place on the all-time scoring list for defenceman, just behind Larry Robinson and tied with Guy Lapointe. He has 572 points in 990 regular season games, with 32 points in 89 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Unlike Robinson, who left the Canadiens 28 years ago this week for three final seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, there was no desire to go elsewhere.

But without a reasonable deal on the table, there’s nothing else to say. Or do. The Habs stacked the deck by signing Karl Alzner and Mark Streit and they’re going to do their level best to move on to a life without one of the greatest defenceman in team history. And that’s all anyone can do.

“I guess now it’s time to move on,” said Markov.

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