Andrei Markov had hoped to return to the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens this season after spending the past two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League, but that will not happen, general manager Marc Bergevin said Monday.
The 40-year-old defenseman played all 16 seasons in his NHL career with the Canadiens before signing in the KHL prior to the 2017-18 season.
“We have some young kids pushing and as far as where Andrei was two years ago, where our team was two years ago, things have changed,” Bergevin said at the Canadiens annual golf tournament. “And now we’re going, you know I call it a reset, refresh, and we did that, and now we’re going to keep in that direction.”
In an interview with RDS, Bergevin mentioned three young defensemen who are ready for an opportunity this season: Victor Mete, who is 21 and has played 120 games the past two seasons; Noah Juulsen, who is 22 and was selected by Montreal in the first round (No. 26) of the 2015 NHL Draft; and Josh Brook, the No. 56 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft who is 20 years old.
“Two years ago, [Markov’s] contract was due, we made an offer,” Bergevin told RDS. “Efforts were made to sign it and he chose another direction that was the KHL. It was two years ago.
“Since that time things have changed. The player has aged. The organization has changed direction. We have a lot of young people growing up … we really want to give our young people a chance.”
Markov, who had 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 49 games for Kazan in the KHL last season, said in early August his goal was to play for the Canadiens this season.
“That’s my dream, you know,” Markov said in an interview with the Montreal Gazette. “But it’s not up to me. We’ll see … we’ll see what’s going to happen. I’ll train hard and prepare myself. But it’s not just my decision.”
Markov said he was seeking a one-year contract in what likely would be his final professional season. He also said he had no bad feelings over leaving the Canadiens following the 2016-17 season.
“Whatever happened at that time, it happened,” Markov said. “I’m not against [Bergevin]. I always loved the team, loved the city, and I always will. But like I said, whatever happened that time … that’s life, you know.”
Markov has been training in Florida, and his agent, Allan Walsh, said Aug. 29 that there had been interest in Markov from several NHL teams.
“He loves the game and he loves to play,” Walsh said. “As long as he feels he can contribute and make a difference, mentoring younger guys, helping out 5-on-5, contributing to a power play. We believe he still has a lot in the tank and a lot to offer. We’ll see how it works out.
“At the end of the day he’s still Andrei Markov, a gifted, skilled hockey player. I honestly believe he can help any team’s power play right now.”
In 990 games with the Canadiens, Markov had 572 points (119 goals, 453 assists). He also had 32 points (five goals, 27 assists) in 89 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
“Yeah, I mean, I think [Bergevin] explained it pretty clearly, we’re heading in a new direction,” co-owner Geoff Molson said Monday.
“But my message to Andrei is thank you so much for everything you did for us for almost 1,000 games and we’ll never forget it. We can’t wait to have him back at the Bell Centre to celebrate a great defenseman, one of the great defensemen that ever played for the Montreal Canadiens. And he was great. He was a pro and somebody that we appreciated every minute that he was here.”
NHL.com independent correspondent Sean Farrell contributed to this report