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"My family and I have decided that it's time to return home.”
And with that, Pavel Datsyuk announced on Saturday that he was leaving the Detroit Red Wings with one year remaining on his contract for Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. The 37-year-old forward held a press conference at his hockey camp in Orchard Lake.
His main reason is his a desire to be closer to his teenaged daughter from his first marriage. He also has been vocal about wanting to finish his hockey career playing before Russian fans - he received an offer from SKA St. Petersburg during the World Championship in May.
Datsyuk met with Wings general manager Ken Holland on Friday evening. Datsyuk originally said he'd make his final answer known after the World Championship ended in late May, but he went on vacation for two weeks. He returned Tuesday, but a meeting was then delayed while the Wings paid respect to Gordie Howe, who passed away June 10.
It’s been long-rumored and long-reported this would be his decision. It’s still going to take some time to process.
Simply put: Pavel Datsyuk is one of the most extraordinary hockey players to ever grace National Hockey League ice. From the moment he arrived in 2001, Datsyuk’s offensive artistry – and unparalleled creativity, as YouTube has chronicled – was only matched by his defensive prowess. He had back-to-back 97-point seasons from 2007-09 and won the Selke Trophy in both years. Who does that?
He leaves the NHL with two Stanley Cup titles with the Red Wings, the only North American team with whom he played. He had 113 points in 157 playoff games, and was a plus-34. In the regular season, he finished with 953 games and 918 points, including 314 goals. He won the Selke three times. But he’s as defined by his grace as he was his ability on the ice: Datsyuk won the Lady Byng for gentlemanly play four times.
Datsyuk leaves behind an incredible legacy – ask Siri who “The Magic Man” is – but he also leaves behind a titanic headache for the Red Wings.
Even while he plays in Russia, $7.5 million hit would remain on the cap for the team because Datsyuk signed his three-year, $22.5-million contract over the age of 35.
“I don’t want to leave team in disaster,” he said earlier this year. “But if I have to do over again, I would sign a different deal. I didn’t realize it at the time.”
The Red Wings are speaking later on Saturday about the matter, but John Shannon of Sportsnet said that they’ll have to trade Datsyuk before his contract is terminated for “anticipatory breach” and can sign a new deal in Russia.
Dan Milstein, Datsyuk’s agent, told Helene St. James of the Free Press that he expects the team will be able to move that cap space, no doubt having to sweeten that pot with a draft pick or prospect. Witness the Chicago Blackhawks having to add Teuvo Teravainen to a deal involving Bryan Bickell’s $4 million cap hit to get that off the books.
There’s speculation that the Red Wings will move Datsyuk’s space in anticipation of taking a run at free agent Steven Stamkos.
The Wings could certainly use an infusion of offense, excitement and star power. Because the man who personified all three is taking his talents to Russia.
Do svidaniya, Pavel Datsyuk. The NHL was a better place with you in it.
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