The rumors surrounding Andrei Markov’s return to the NHL have never really gone away since he left North America for the KHL in 2017. Now it’s much more than just a rumor, as Stu Cowan of the Montreal Gazette got the 40-year old on the record talking about his plans for this season. Markov would love a chance to return to the Montreal Canadiens and reach the 1,000-game mark (he’s currently sitting at 990) but would also welcome other opportunities. Back in May it was reported that the veteran defenseman had already received interest from three teams in the NHL, though it wasn’t clear who those were.
Markov was once one of the premiere two-way defensemen in the NHL, recording a career-high 64 points in 2008-09 with the Canadiens. Even in the KHL he has continued to produce, recording 47 points in 104 regular season games and helping his club win a Gagarin Cup in 2018. He does admit that 2019-20 will probably be his final year as a player, meaning he’ll take advantage of every moment.
Obviously signing a 40-year old who is two years removed from NHL action is uncommon, but Markov showed an ability to stay relevant even into the late part of his career with Montreal. He recorded 36 points in just 62 games in 2016-17 and has always had good underlying possession numbers. If the Canadiens believe he can outplay one of their relatively unproven options on the blue line and help them get back to the playoffs, there’s not a ton of risk in a one-year deal. Still, with the offseason half over and rosters already relatively set it might be hard to find a fit.
One good thing is that Markov would be eligible for a performance bonus-laden contract, meaning his base salary could be extremely low. That would give a team some freedom in evaluating his play without committing a good chunk of their cap. If he’s still capable and productive any included bonuses will be worth it.