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Markov leaves Canadiens for KHL and possibly Olympics

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Canadiens say defenceman Andrei Markov will not return to the team next season. (Ted Rhodes/Postmedia Network/Files)

The Canadiens say defenceman Andrei Markov will not return to the team next season. (Ted Rhodes/Postmedia Network/Files)

Andrei Markov is leaving the NHL after 16 seasons with the Montreal Canadiens to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League.

Markov announced his decision on a conference call Thursday. He hopes to represent Russia in the Olympics next February in South Korea, which will happen without NHL players.

The 38-year-old said his top option was to return to Montreal and finish his career there. When that didn’t happen, he decided to move home.

Markov would have been the top free agent available, but instead he should be Russia’s top defenceman at the Olympics. Russia is expected to fill its roster with KHL players, including former NHL stars Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk.

In 990 games, Markov had 119 goals and 453 assists for 572 points.