With his Kontinental Hockey League contract set to expire, could Pavel Datsyuk be on his way back to the NHL? According to his agent, maybe.
“I can tell you Pavel is not ready to quit hockey in next few years. So again, it’s up to him, going to America or playing in the KHL.” his agent, Dan Milstein, told in Russian outlet Match TV, according to NHL.com.
The three-time Selke Trophy winner retired from the NHL after the 2015-16 season and headed back to his native Russia, where he’s spent the last three seasons with KHL powerhouse SKA St. Petersburg. Datsyuk turns 41 next summer and would be the NHL’s third oldest player if he stepped into a team’s line up today.
That whole age thing seems like it would be a pretty big deal, but Datsyuk’s agent is, not surprisingly, downplaying the significance of such a concern.
“Pavel is getting slower with age, but his skill and vision are still there,” said Milstein, who added that Datsyuk would “have a lot of options if he decides to return to the NHL.”
“He would be a centre (on the) second or third line, or wing on the first or second line and play on the first power play.”
Though Datsyuk was a dominant force all over the ice during his illustrious NHL career, it’s extremely rare for even elite players to make a sizeable impact after the age of 34, let alone in their 40’s.
There are only 25 skaters who are 35 or older on NHL rosters to start this season, and you can count the ones who are actually producing in a top-six role on one hand. The outlook is even more bleak once you exit your 30’s, as Matt Cullen and Zdeno Chara, two absolute freaks, are the only two 40-plus players in the league, while Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are the only 39-year-olds to have more than 20 points this season.
If he does make his way back to the NHL next season, Datsyuk would follow in the footsteps are fellow Russian star Ilya Kovalchuk, who returned to the league after a five-year hiatus and has put up nine goals in 40 games so far with the LA Kings. Kovalchuk is just 35.
Datsyuk posted 918 in 953 career NHL games, all with the Red Wings, and captain Russia to gold at the 2018 Olympics. The two-time Stanley Cup winner has scored at a 0.82 points-per-game clip over his last three KHL campaigns.
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