08/05/2013 07:11 pm ET

'Dancing With The Stars': Maksim Chmerkovskiy Could Return For Season 17 Of ABC's Reality Competition


After Maksim Chmerkovskiy's high-profile exit from ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," we figured the dancer would be gone for good, but that may not be the case.

According to Access Hollywood, ABC president Paul Lee told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that “Maks is part of the family. He may well be back" this fall. “We love having him a part of it," Lee added.

Chmerkovskiy made his exit sound fairly final as far back as September 2012. "What else do I have to do there after 15 seasons? It makes total sense," he told the New York Post. "The audience can't expect for me to want to stick around, and the producers can't expect for me to want to stick around."

Other pros who didn't appear in Season 16 included Anna Trebunskaya, Chelsie Hightower and Louis van Amstel, although a rep for the show downplayed their absences (and Chmerkovskiy's) in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter: "We frequently rotate the professional dancers, so it is not unusual for them to rest a cycle. As we consider who will be matched up each season, there are a lot of factors that dictate which couples make the best pairings. We appreciate each of our dancers' dedication to the show, so this is a very difficult decision. Anna, Chelsie, Louis and Maks continue to be a part of the 'Dancing With the Stars' family."

Another departed "Dancing" pro, Derek Hough, told Access Hollywood that he'd definitely be back this season. “Yes ... And the format’s changing. We’ve got one show a week now, but I think it’ll make a better show, more jam packed. And so I’m excited about it.”

"Dancing with the Stars" Season 17 premieres Monday, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

"Dancing With The Stars" Season 16 Cast