Over the past week reports have surfaced that this may be Pavel Datsyuk’s final season in the NHL, but the veteran center has confirmed that the Red Wings’ post-season run, however long it lasts, will likely be the final games of his NHL career.
In an interview with the Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom, Datsyuk said he wanted to clear up the rumors and reports and wished for the fans to hear of his decision from him, “not someone else.” Datsyuk said that he may not be done with the game entirely, but he does want to return to Russia. “I think I am done playing in the NHL,” Datsyuk told Albom.
“I will go back to my hometown,” Datsyuk added. “It is proper time…I am happy this year, but was like my heart pulled over both sides.”
According to Albom, one of the major factors in Datsyuk’s decision is heading home to be closer to his 13-year-old daughter. Before the season began, Datsyuk said he sees “how she misses me, how she misses my advice…I want to come back and be closer.” And by leaving the Red Wings to return to Russia, he’ll be able to be with his wife and daughter and be there as she enters her teenage years.
Following this season, Datsyuk will have one year of his three-year, $7.5-million contract remaining on the books, and he said he feels bad about leaving the team on the hook for the remainder of his contract and said had he known how he would feel in the late stages of the contract he may have signed a different contract. However, had he done that, he may have been gone before this season even began.
“Looking back, I wish I had done a year-by-year contract, not a three-year contract,” Datsyuk told Albom. “I stayed (last year) in respect for Ilitch family. I don’t want to leave team in disaster. But if I have to do over again, I would sign a different deal. I didn’t realize it at the time.”
According to Albom, Datsyuk’s agent Dan Milstein has been told not to negotiate any type of further contract or extension. That said, Albom reported that there has been a generous offer, but it’s hard to imagine anything will be able to sway Datsyuk. If Datsyuk does decide to leave, though, the Red Wings may be able to get Datsyuk’s deal off the books by trading his contract to a team needing to get to the salary cap floor.
Even if the management group doesn’t try to convince Datsyuk to stick around — which they almost assuredly will — fans in Detroit are sure to cheer and chant for the ‘Magic Man’ in hopes they can convince him to stay for at least one more final, farewell season. Following the reports Datsyuk may leave, fans chanted “one more year” during a pre-game ceremony.
“It was a very tearful moment,” Datsyuk said Friday, via the Detroit Free Press. “If national anthem didn’t start playing when it did, I would have visible tears in my eyes. It was very difficult. I really appreciate fans very much.”
If this is Datsyuk’s final season, he will finish the final regular season campaign of his career with 16 goals and 49 points in 66 games, making this his worst offensively productive NHL season since his rookie year. In 953 career games, Datsyuk has notched 314 goals and 918 points, and he will leave the NHL as the sixth-highest scorer in Red Wings history. He is a three-time Selke Trophy winner, four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner and has captured two Stanley Cups in Detroit.