Andrei Markov

Smith-Pelly joins KHL’s Kunlun Red Star on one-year deal

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After failing to catch on with the Flames in training camp, Devante Smith-Pelly has signed on with Kunlun Red Star of the KHL on a one-year deal.

The 27-year-old forward split time between the Capitals and their AHL affiliate last season. After being waived and sent down in February, he joined the Hershey Bears and scored six times and registered 14 points in 20 games. In 54 games with the Capitals, Smith-Pelly recorded eight points and was pointless in three playoff games. 

It wasn’t the easiest of seasons for Smith-Pelly in 2018-19 coming off a Stanley Cup Final where he scored three times against the Golden Knights. He couldn’t find a regular spot in Todd Reirden’s lineup and the Capitals declined to re-sign him in the summer. The Flames brought him into training camp last month on a tryout deal but released him after he went pointless in four games.

Kunlun Red Star is based in Beijing, China and coached by former NHL player and head coach Curt Fraser. 

Smith-Pelly isn’t the only player on the roster with NHL ties. You might recall names like Gilbert Brule, Adam Cracknell, Wojtek Wolski, Griffin Reinhart, Brandon Yip, and Andrej Sustr. There are also two sons of former stars in the league with David Bondra Jake Chelios featuring.

In other KHL news, four days after signing a tryout deal, former Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov has signed a one-year deal with Lokomotiv.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Andrei Markov heads back to KHL on tryout deal

Veteran defender Andrei Markov has been hoping to make a return to the NHL after spending the past two seasons playing in the KHL, but it appears as if those plans will remain on hold.

The KHL announced on Thursday that Markov has signed a professional tryout contract with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. Markov played for Kazan Ak-Bars the past two seasons, tallying seven goals and 47 points in 104 regular season games.

Markov, now 40, spent his entire 16-year career with the Montreal Canadiens and was hoping to make a return to the team this season but the feeling never seemed to be mutual.

“Two years ago, his contract was due, we made an offer,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told Canada’s RDS back in September. “Efforts were made to sign it and he chose another direction that was KHL. It was two years ago. Since that time, things have changed. The player has aged. The organization has changed direction. We have a lot of young people growing up.”

Markov’s agent said back in August that five teams had checked in on Markov’s availability and that he was seeking a one-year deal.

He is 10 games shy of playing his 1,000th game in the NHL, something that would be a nice milestone for what has been an extremely productive career. When he was at his best and not limited by injury (he had terrible injury luck for a three-year run between 2009 and 2012) Markov was an outstanding player and big point producer from the Canadiens’ blue line. Even in his last NHL season he had 36 points and a 54 percent Corsi rating in 66 games as a 38-year-old. Not exactly a small accomplishment.

Unfortunately for Markov there did not seem to be much of a market this year (at least not yet) for a 40-year-old defender.

The only players in the NHL over the age of 38 this season are Zdeno Chara (42), Patrick Marleau (40), Joe Thornton (40), and Ron Hainsey (38). Chara and Hainsey are the only defenders.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Canadiens GM not interested in bringing back Andrei Markov

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After spending the past two seasons playing in the KHL, veteran defender Andrei Markov is looking to make a return to the NHL this season.

Markov, 40, is 10 games away from his 1,000th in the NHL and it has been reported that his first preference would be to again play for the Montreal Canadiens, the only team he ever played for in the NHL.

The feeling is apparently not mutual.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin told Canada’s RDS on Saturday that a lot of things have changed since they offered Markov a contract two years ago.

Via the Montreal Gazette:

“Two years ago, his contract was due, we made an offer. Efforts were made to sign it and he chose another direction that was KHL. It was two years ago.

“Since that time, things have changed. The player has aged. The organization has changed direction. We have a lot of young people growing up. I will name them. The (Noah) Juulsen, the (Victor) Mete, the (Josh) Brook … (Alexander) Romanov, who will be here in a year. Then, we really want to give our young people a chance.”

Markov did not have agent at the time of those negotiations, but has since hired Allan Walsh to represent him in his return attempt. Walsh said back in August that at least five teams have checked in and that Markov is willing to play anywhere on what would likely be a one-year deal.

Markov last played for the Canadiens during the 2016-17 season, recording 36 points (six goals, 30 assists) in 62 games. At his peak he was an outstanding player on the Canadiens’ blue line, but had a good chunk of his career wiped out by injury between 2009 and 2012. He was able to bounce back from that by appearing in all but two games between the 2012-13 and 2015-16 seasons. In 990 games he has scored 119 goals to go with 453 assists (572 total points).

The Canadiens’ defense definitely has some flaws in the short-term, but it’s hard to build a convincing argument that a 40-year-old defender two years removed from the NHL would make a significant impact. So Bergevin’s position is certainly understandable.

Overall it has been a quiet offseason for the Canadiens as they are returning mostly the same roster that fell short of the playoffs a year ago. They did make an effort to sign Sebastian Aho as a restricted free agent away from the Montreal Canadiens, but the offer was easily matched.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule
Which teams should take chance on Andrei Markov?

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

PHT Morning Skate: Markov eyeing return; Dorion likes Sens’ chances

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Andrei Markov eyeing NHL return. (Sportsnet)

• Reigning Calder winner Elias Pettersson to grace the cover of NHL 20 in native Sweden. (The Province)

Patrik Laine, meanwhile, will be on Finland’s cover for the second straight year, becoming the first player to ever appear on a cover in two consecutive years. (Winnipeg Sun)

Sidney Crosby was an open book for the guys on the Spitting Chiclets podcast. (Sportsnet)

• Mike Babcock is doing it again. (Editor in Leaf)

• Jarmo Kekalainen says Zach Werenski expected to sign prior to the opening of training camp. (NHL.com)

• All eyes on how Ron Francis builds his analytics department. (Seattle Times)

• Seattle’s NHL owners want to weed out ticket brokers from acquiring large amounts of tickets. (KING5 News)

• Pierre Dorion is bullish on the Senators’ upcoming season. (Sportsnet)

• Is Laine poised to bounce back in 2019-20? (Sporting News)

• WAR. What is it good for? Projecting the 2019-20 standings, of course. (The Athletic)

• Few remaining NHL free agents are worth signing, but there is value out there. (Yahoo Sports)

• NHL ref Wes McCauley of South Portland to be honored at Mariners game. (Portland Press Herald)

• Sabres blue line is a story of potential vs. reality. (Die by the Blade)

MORE:
ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Habs’ Beaulieu wants to prove he’s ‘a top four guy’

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With a new two-year, $2 million contract in his back pocket, Nathan Beaulieu is out to prove he can be a top-four defenseman, and power play specialist with the Montreal Canadiens.

“For next season I want to play a bigger role on the team,” Beaulieu said during his conference call on Saturday. “I feel I can play big minutes with this team. It doesn’t get handed to you, so I know I need to earn big minutes, and with that you need to be in tiptop shape.

“I feel like going forward the next couple seasons I want to prove I can play big minutes (and) that I’m definitely a top four guy that can help the team win.”

The 22-year-old appeared in 65 games with the Canadiens in 2014-15 scoring one goal and eight assists while averaging 15:42 in time on ice.

He also appeared in eight American Hockey League games with the Hamilton Bulldogs scoring two goals and four points.

“It took a lot of patience. It was a journey. I had to play a little time in the American (Hockey) League, and I had to grow little aspects of my game,” Beaulieu said of becoming an NHL regular. “It was a process and I feel like now I’ve grown into an NHL player.

“I feel like me along with the organization, we’ve figured out a plan for myself, and we know what I can do.”

Part of what the 6-foot-2, 194-pound blue liner wants to do moving forward is earn a regular role on the club’s power play.

“I’ve got a great guy to learn from in Andrei Markov,” he said. “I know I’m a power play guy, just got to wait for the opportunities and I know that eventually I’m going to be a power play guy.

“You got to earn it. It just doesn’t get given to you. I’m ready to take on responsibilities and earn a spot.”

Related: Habs cutting ties with Gonchar, Malhotra, Weaver