MONTREAL, QB—It was announced on Thursday, July 27, marked Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov’s last NHL appearance. He disclosed that he will be returning to his native Russia to reportedly play for the Ak Bars Kazan of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).

The 38 year-old unrestricted free agent (who hails from Voskresensk) was unable to close a two-year deal with Montreal mainly for financial reasons, the League disclosed. The second year of his prospective contract would be concurrent with that of goalie Carey Price on July 2, 2018.

Without explaining any additional details, Markov shared that a one year contract “did not work.” He did not want his family to have to bear the burden of moving around North America and preferred his children adapt to the environment of his native country. Markov contended, “I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team, I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

Standing at 6 feet and weighing 200 pounds, Markov was selected by Montreal as the 162nd overall pick in 1998. Last season, he made 62 regular-season appearances and posted 36 points (six goals and 30 assists), 16 penalty minutes, and a plus-18 rating. Before the team was eliminated by the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, Markov played in six games and had one assist for one point, as well as 10 penalty minutes and a minus-1 rating.

Since his professional debut on October 6, 2000, Markov has appeared in 990 games and holds 572 points (119 goals and 453 assists), 505 penalty minutes, and a plus-64 rating. In 89 total playoff games, he collected 32 points (five goals and 27 assists), 56 penalty minutes, and a minus-7 rating. He is ranked second alongside Canadiens alum Guy Lapointe on the team’s all-time scoring list for blueliners. Larry Robinson is ranked first with 833 points.

Prior to the NHL, Markov played for the Khimik Voskresensk and Dynamo Moscow (for whom he also played during the 2004-2005, being absent for that season with the Canadiens), both members of the Russian Superleague. During his first two seasons with Montreal, he also played for the Quebec Citadelles of the AHL. He played for both the HC Vityaz (KHL) and Montreal in 2012-2013.

On Thursday, the NHL uploaded a video detailing Markov’s 16-season career with Montreal, stating that his decision to depart from Montreal was inevitably difficult. They also noted that Markov was a “great conversationalist” amongst both his teammates and the media.

“Arguably one of the best defenseman in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey,” said Geoff Molson, the Canadiens’ President and Chief Executive Officer.

Nashville Predators’ defenseman P.K. Subban spent seven seasons (2009-2016) with Markov in Montreal before being traded at the start of last season.

“I can’t really envision the Montreal Canadiens without Andrei Markov on the blue line. That’s No. 1. Even before I played for the team, I watched him play for the team and be their best defenseman. Even while I was there, I still thought he was our best defenseman, even though because of what I got paid it was me. You can’t really put a price tag on how he plays because he’s so smart, the way he sees the ice. Anyone who’s played with him knows how good he is,” said Subban.

“Everybody on the team always has such great chemistry with Markov because he always makes the next play so much easier for you, even the spin he puts on the puck when he passes to you, the area he puts it in,” said Max Pacioretty, Montreal’s captain, adding, “I know that’s why people respect his game so much.”