Turned down by Canadiens, Andrei Markov says he will play in the KHL in 2017-18

If there was any doubt Andrei Markov had played his last game with the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs officially cut ties with the 16-year veteran on Thursday, announcing they would not re-sign the defenseman for the 2017-18 season and hosting an impromptu conference call, during which Markov unveiled plans to return to Russia and play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

"I wanted to stay with the Canadiens for the rest of my career, but it won't happen," Markov said, according to NHL.com. "It's a business. ... I've decided to move back to Russia and play in the KHL." 

Markov joined Montreal in 1998 and spent his entire NHL career with the Canadiens, logging seven 40-point seasons. The 38-year-old defenseman had reportedly been seeking a two-year, $12 million extension before July 1 and nearly compromised later on with a one-year agreement, as reported by Yahoo! Sports, but the market remained quiet in the ensuing weeks. The only development of note came when Markov reportedly tried selling himself to the Philadelphia Flyers, who then denied any interest in signing the veteran.

Still, the longtime Canadien may have been the top remaining free agent available. A reunion with Montreal made some sense before the Habs inked Mark Streit to a bargain-bin deal this week, and Markov himself is apparently looking to milk another half-decade out of his hockey career.

The return to Russia, then, is unsurprising considering Markov's overseas roots, his KHL history -- he suited up for 21 Russian games in 2012-13 -- and the opportunity for the defenseman to do like non-NHL stars and partake in the 2018 Olympics. But it also marks a rather unceremonious departure from Montreal, what with his weeks-long stint on the open market and the revelation that he could have returned to the blue line for a Canadiens team that may very well have had enough salary cap space.

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