Unrestricted free agent defenseman Andrei Markov will not return to the Montreal Canadiens for a 17th season, the team announced and Markov confirmed during a conference call Thursday

Markov, a veteran of 990 games for the Canadiens, will be heading to the KHL in his native Russia, though he declined to say what team he will be suiting up for as his deal is not yet signed. 

“For the past 16 years, I was proudly wearing the Habs jersey. Each and every day, I realized how lucky I was to be a part of such a great hockey organization,” Markov said on the conference call.

“I guess now it’s time to move on. It’s sad for me to leave. This organization was a big part of my life and always will be, but now I’m looking forward to new opportunities. They say that if one door closes, others will open.”

Markov, 38, was selected by the Canadiens in the sixth round of the 1998 NHL draft and made his NHL debut in the 2000-01 season. He went on to score 119 goals and record 453 assists for 572 career points. His 990 games place him sixth all-time on the Canadiens’ games played list, and he added an additional 89 playoff games.

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Markov expressed that the Canadiens were the only NHL team he was interested in playing for. 

“I knew in my heart that I was only going to sign in Montreal. I have a good relationship with everyone in the organization. But, it didn’t work. It is what it is right now,” he said. 

Despite a deal not coming to fruition, Markov left the door open for a return to the Habs. 

“You never know. I’m not closing my door to Montreal and I’m not closing my door to the NHL,” Markov said.

“But, today I’m going…