-- Andrei Markov
knew he was limiting his bargaining power severely -- but he didn't care.
Coming off reconstructive surgery on his right knee in back-to-back years and approaching his first opportunity to gauge his value on the unrestricted free agent market, Markov gave his agent Don Meehan a very clear directive: Get a deal done with the only NHL team he has ever played for, the Montreal Canadiens
Meehan delivered Thursday night, agreeing to terms with Canadiens GM Pierre Gauthier during a meeting in Minneapolis on a three-year, $17.25 million contract that will extend the stay of the longest-serving player on the Canadiens' roster.
"I think it's something special, it's not easy to stay on one team for a long time," Markov told reporters Friday at the Canadiens' suburban practice facility, where he continues his rehabilitation from his December surgery. "I want to thank the organization for keeping me here."
"I'm not the type of guy who likes to change something. I'm happy with our team, I'm happy with our fans, I'm happy with our city. So why would I change something?" -- Andrei Markov
Markov, 32, has never hidden his affinity for Montreal. He officially became a Canadian citizen last summer, and he said he cut short a trip to Russia this summer because he wanted to come back to the city.
In spite of his recent history of injuries, Markov would have been among the most accomplished defensemen available on the free agent market had he remained unsigned on July 1 -- one who finished second in League scoring among blueliners in 2008-09, his last full season. But he had absolutely no interest in finding out what that free agent process may have produced.
"I'm not the type of guy who likes to change something," he said. "I'm happy with our team, I'm happy with our fans, I'm happy with our city. So why would I change something?"
A lot of those fans, however, are feeling a bit uneasy about the term and dollar amount attached to the Markov contract, considering him an injury risk after three straight seasons of major injuries for the veteran defenseman.
On April 4, 2009, just days before the start of the playoffs, Markov's left knee was torn up after being hit into the boards by former teammate Mikhail Grabovski
in Toronto, costing him the final four regular-season games and the playoffs.
On opening night the following season, Markov tore a tendon in his foot when it was sliced by Carey Price
's skate, again in Toronto. The tear required surgery that cost Markov 35 games.
In Game 1 of the second round of the 2010 playoffs, Markov was hit into the boards by Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke
and tore the ACL in his right knee for the first time.
That surgery kept Markov out of action until the 11th game this past season -- but just seven games later he tore the right ACL again when he fell awkwardly after a collision with Carolina's Eric Staal
All told, of the Canadiens 190 games played the past two seasons -- 164 in the regular season and 26 in the playoffs -- Markov has dressed for just 60. The rest of the time has been spent rehabbing from injuries, and he's hoping his current stint will be his last for some time.
"I'm tired of that," he said. "I just want to play the game. I miss the game a lot."
Markov has a visit scheduled with his surgeon Dr. James Andrews in mid-August to check on his right knee and he's hoping to be ready to play in time for the Canadiens' opening game of the 2011-12 season on Oct. 6 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, an arena that hasn't been particularly kind to him in the past.
The threat of another injury will always exist for Markov, but he feels it is no different for him than it would be for any other player.
"We're not playing chess, you know?" he said. "It's hockey. It's a physical sport."
It's also a sport he is eager to play again in the only place he has done so as a professional, a place Markov is happy to call home.
"I like this team, I like this town and I think our crowd is the best crowd in the League," he said. "Every time I step on the ice, I enjoy that moment. I wanted to continue that."