DETROIT – The Detroit Red Wings accomplished their No. 1 goal of the off-season Tuesday by agreeing to a $22.5 million, three-year deal with Pavel Datsyuk.
“It’s a great day for the Red Wings,” general manager Ken Holland said in a telephone interview. “He’s is a world-class player and there are no moves I can make to find players like Pavel Datsyuk.”
Datsyuk and the Red Wings reached the deal two days before his 35th birthday, keeping the Russian superstar with the franchise through the 2016-17 season.
He can’t sign the contract until July 5 because he was entering the last year of his current deal. Soon after the season ended with a Game 7 loss in the second round at Chicago, Datsyuk said he wanted to stay with the Red Wings instead of returning home to play in Russia following the 2013-14 season.
Holland was relieved the two sides agreed to terms before Pavel went back home.
“If we would’ve gone all summer without a deal, you never know what could’ve happened,” Holland said. “That’s his home country and they have a pro league that pays well, but Pav loves it in Detroit.”
Holland acknowledged he won’t be able to keep all of the team’s key players from last season, including free agents Daniel Cleary, Damien Brunner and Valtteri Filppula.
“We have an interest in all three, but they may have better opportunities elsewhere,” Holland said. “Not all of our free agents are going to be back because have decisions to make, just like everybody else in the (salary) cap world.”
Datsyuk led Detroit with 15 goals and 49 points in the 48-game, lockout-shortened season. The centre was tied for third on the team with nine points in the post-season, which ended in the second round against Chicago.
He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002 as a rookie and again in 2008. Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall led the team during a rebuilding season well enough that the franchise extended its post-season streak to 22, eliminated the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks and led the top-seeded Blackhawks 3-1 before losing the series.
“We feel we have a tremendous leadership group moving forward in Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Kronwall,” Holland said.
Detroit drafted Datsyuk in the sixth round, 171st overall, in 1998 and he made his NHL debut during the 2001-02 season and showed right away he was a steal.
As one of the game’s all-time great defensive forwards, Datsyuk has won the Selke Trophy three times. The 5-foot-11, 194-pound Datsyuk took the puck away from an opponent 56 times this season, tying for the league lead. And as one of the gentlemen of the physical sport, he has won the Lady Byng Trophy four times.
Few have been better at dangling a puck or snatching one away, a skill Datsyuk has said he learned as a kid.
“In Russia, we had tough times. Only one puck,” he said. “I always wanted the puck, so I learn how to keep it and make space and get puck when other guy has it.”
The four-time All-Star and 2009 MVP finalist has 255 goals and 767 points during a career in which he has led a talented team in scoring six times. Datsyuk is sixth on the franchise’s all-time scoring list, trailing Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman, Alex Delvecchio, Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Fedorov.
Lidstrom’s jersey will head to the storied rafters of Joe Louis Arena next season and Datsyuk’s will, too, after he hangs up his skates.
Holland is thrilled that won’t be any time real soon.
“This deal ensures that Pavel will be in Detroit for the next four years,” he said. “His accomplishments over the past 11 seasons demonstrate what a truly dynamic player he is. His work ethic is second to none.”
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