Simply put, with P.K. Subban and now Nathan Beaulieu and Mikhail Sergachev gone, the Canadiens need Andrei Markov. They need his offensive ability, his talent at passing the puck out of the zone. No one currently on the roster or in they system has anywhere close that ability.
Yet there he sits on the Unrestricted Free Agent rolls, unsigned. Based on what Marc Bergevin said on July 2 and various reports, it seems Andrei wants a raise from his $5.75M he was earning the last few years, and a two-year deal. And obviously Marc Bergevin is balking.
Some will say that the Canadiens should offer him a two-year deal, but with a reduced salary the second season, say six million and then three. I'm pretty sure the Canadiens would have explored this option though. At a reasonable cost, with the cap hit spread over two years, it becomes doable.
My theory is that with Andrei representing himself, and wanting to save the 5% on agent fees, he's the one butting his head against a GM, and there enters a personal element in what should be business. There's a hardening of positions, no one in your ear to sway you, pride becomes a factor in the equation.
Some commenters have compared it to the Daniel Alfredsson situation in Ottawa, causing him to play his last season in Detroit, but I think it's pretty different. In Daniel's case, he wanted to sign as what he thought would be his last NHL contract a three-year deal, but the Sens convinced him to make it a four-year deal with a fake last season at $1M tacked on, which was the practice in those cap circumventing days, and would have brought the cap hit down to $4.9M. Reports are that Daniel did so reluctantly, since he didn't want to box himself in, he wasn't certain he'd retire after three seasons, but he went along with the ruse.
He then had three very productive seasons, and decided he didn't want to retire, he felt great and wanted to keep playing and maybe win a Stanley Cup, his team having done well in the playoffs in 2012. But he was now locked in and forced to play out the contract and the 2012-13 season at $1M.
Still, Daniel had a good season during Gary Bettman's Third Lockout season, with 10 goals, 16 assists in 47 games played, and felt he could still play. So for his final 'final contract', Daniel wanted the going rate for a team captain at his level of play, and a top-up for the previous season when he gave the team that $1M sweetheart deal. Instead, broke billionaire Eugene Melnyk tried to nickle and dime him, and that's why Daniel, who wasn't in a mood to do any owner any favours, quickly left and slammed the door, signing a contract with the Red Wings. Mr. Melnyk was left to backpedal and try to explain what transpired, presenting it as a perplexing turn of events, since it was a 'money's no object' situation for them. They had adopted that stance after playing hardball/insulting Mr. Alfredsson though.
In Andrei's case, the Canadiens can be said to have treated him fairly, certainly during the Pierre Gauthier administration. We all remember how the GM didn't really hesitate when it was time to re-up Andrei, but merely extended Andrei's previous $5.75M per season contract for three more. This was when Andrei was recovering from a problematic ACL reconstruction that had to be redone, and we all remember the portends of doom on social media, how it was wasted money since when Bobby Orr shredded his knee in 1969 he was never the same afterwards, so certainly the same fate would befall Andrei fourty years into the future.
Andrei did return to his former productive self, with maybe a mile or two off his fastball and a step late in some situations, but well worth the cap hit and money spent. So much so that the carbon copy of that deal was used essentially by Marc Bergevin when Andrei needed another new contract, even though he was three years older.
And I guess this is where the crux of the matter is. Andrei's performance is tailing off slightly, yet he asked for a raise and a two-year deal, and you can kind of understand his view. Since he's playing first-pairing minutes anyway, he wants to be compensated as such.
The Canadiens see him as a valuable but declining asset, and want him on a one-year deal. It seems like an impasse, but this is what negotiation is about, and where a good agent would come in and be worth his fee.