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Forever young

Andrei Markov is not planning on hanging up his skates anytime soon

by Vincent Régis, translated by Dan Braverman @canadiensmtl /

MONTREAL -- Age is just a number. Just ask Andrei Markov.

The Russian blue-liner is playing playing nothing like a man approaching his 40th birthday. In fact, the only giveaway to the 38-year-old defenseman's age is his hair - or lack thereof.

On the verge of becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Markov is coming off a 16th NHL campaign - all with Montreal - in which he was the third-most used defenseman on the Canadiens, averaging 21:50 per game - and 26:09 in the playoffs.

With six goals and 30 assists on the season, Markov reached the 30-point plateau for the 11th time in his career. And his points-per-game average of .58 makes him the only player above the age of 34 among the top 20 defensemen in that category.

Video: Andrei Markov on wanting to remain a Hab

Retirement? He's keeping that on hold for now.

"I would like to play here for the rest of my life," joked Markov, doing his best Jaromir Jagr impression during his end-of-season meeting with the press.

If he did, it certainly wouldn't upset Max Pacioretty.

"I told Chucky, 'I don't want Marky to retire, because he gets me at least 10 goals a year!'" declared the captain back in March, highlighting the veteran defenseman's vision and the accuracy of his passes.

"We haven't talked about it," Markov added, a bit more seriously. "To be honest, I'm still not thinking about the end of my career. I'm excited for next season."

And for good reason: two prestigious milestones are within reach for the defenseman.

On March 28, Markov tied Guy Lapointe for second place on the Canadiens' all-time scoring list among defensemen when he got his 572nd career point in a 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars.

Left off the scoresheet for the following five games, Markov will have to wait until he notches his first point in 2017-18 - if he's still wearing the bleu-blanc-rouge, of course - in order to occupy second place all by himself.

Video: DAL@MTL: Lehkonen buries Markov's milestone dish

He will also have to wait until he plays his tenth game of 2017-18 before reaching another milestone: his 1000th NHL game. Markov would've reached the magic number this season if not for a groin injury that sidelined him for 19 games.

When he does, he will become the sixth player in Canadiens history to reach the plateau in a Habs jersey after Jean Beliveau, Claude Provost, Henri Richard, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey.

Priority: Montreal

Even though he will have the luxury of talking to the other 30 clubs in the League when the free agent market opens, Markov - who obtained his Canadian citizenship in 2010 - is clear about his intentions.

"My first option would be Montreal. I would like to stay here. I've always played here, and I would probably like to finish my career here. We'll see what happens over the summer," indicated the Habs' sixth-round pick in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

"My family likes the city, I like the city. My priority is to stay here and to play here," he continued.

Video: Pop Up Video ft. Andrei Markov

Family, stability, the records; all good reasons to extend his career with the Canadiens - whether it be by one year, or several. But there is an even more important reason pulling Markov back to Montreal: the fans.

"Every time you step on the ice, it's an incredible feeling. The crowd, the fans, the city - you can see how passionate they are here. It's something special," Markov pronounced.

All that remains now is for negotiations to start and for the two parties to come to an agreement. Those who may worry that the talks might drag out will be comforted to know that Markov has no intention of letting that happen.

"I prefer to be fixed before July 1, because I have a wedding on July 7," concluded Markov, with a dash of his well-known sense of humor.

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