Whatever glimmer of hope Red Wings fans may have had that Pavel Datsyuk would remain in Detroit for one more season has been snuffed out.
The 37-year-old center announced Saturday that he intends to return to Russia next season and will not be coming back to finish out the final season of his three-year, $22.5-million contract. It had long been reported that Datsyuk had been planning to leave the NHL following the 2015-16 season and Datsyuk himself had told the Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom that he felt the time was right for him to make his NHL exit, but Saturday’s announcement makes it official.
"This was not an easy decision but it's time for us to return home," Datsyuk said of his decision to depart, via NHL.com.
Over the course of his 14-season NHL career, Datsyuk suited up in 953 games, scoring 314 goals and 918 points. He added another 42 goals and 113 points in 157 playoff games, and was an integral part of 2008 Stanley Cup victory and played a minor role in the 2002 championship. He’s a three-time Selke Trophy winner, four-time Lady Byng victor and three-time all-star.
Datsyuk’s departure from the NHL isn’t just awful news in the sense that the Red Wings are losing their most talented veteran player and one who notched 16 goals and 49 points in 66 games during the past season. His decision to leave the league also has massive salary cap implications.
Because Datsyuk’s deal is a 35-plus contract — meaning it was signed after his 35th birthday — the Red Wings will remain on the hook for the entirety of the $7.5-million cap hit. However, Detroit can lessen or completely relieve that burden if GM Ken Holland can manage to trade the contract. That will be difficult for the Red Wings, however, and could cost draft picks and a prospect in order to sweeten the deal for the team that takes on the contract to hit the salary floor.
There are other options, though, including terminating the contract, which Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported could be the case. Holland is expected to further clarify how the Red Wings will proceed at a press conference Saturday afternoon.
The Red Wings appeared to have had a good feeling, and a big sign, that Datsyuk was departing as early as February. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika reported that Datsyuk turned down a $2-million bonus in February because it was “contingent on him playing (the) third year” of his current contract.
As for Datsyuk, the next step will be playing in the KHL. According to Cotsonika, Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, said the ‘Magic Man’ has received contract offers from teams in the Russian league and the plan is to look over the offers in the coming week before deciding which team he wants to play for in 2016-17. Datsyuk said he’s not sure how long his KHL career will last, though his play this past season proved he’s still got some good years left.