Pavel Datsyuk Confirms Departure to Russia

For the second time in two years, the Detroit Red Wings have to say goodbye to an integral part of their organization.

After a sudden onset of rumors, media speculation, and vague non-comments, Pavel Datsyuk has confirmed to Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press that he intends to go home to Russia after the conclusion of the 2015/2016 NHL Playoffs. “I have overstayed,” the 37 year old mentioned. Though there is still to be one final meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, Datsyuk’s mind is all but made up at this point. He wanted to wait until after the regular season was over to release the news, so as to not distract from the intense playoff push that colored the end of the season.

GOING HOME

Datsyuk cites family – namely his adolescent daughter – as his reasoning for leaving the team a year before his contract ended. Ever since he went back to Russia in 2012 to play during the NHL lockout, the urge to return home has been nearly insurmountable. The only reason he stayed the past two years was due to loyalty to the team, respect for the Illitch family, and an impressive contract offer from Ken Holland.

Aside from his personal life drawing him back to his homeland, his lengthy list of injuries is putting a damper on his game. Datsyuk revealed the true magnitude of the work he had done on his ankle over the summer; a routine procedure on his damaged right ankle turned into a 4 hour surgery in which it was discovered that his tendons were destroyed (they were replaced via cadaver, a process that would have led many to retirement). His recovery was further hampered by the ankle getting infected, leading to another appointment under the knife.

Detroit fans will not be eager to find fault or disgust in Datsyuk’s decision. The 15-year Red Wing has brought a plethora of success, both personal and team-based, to the organization. He was instrumental in Stanley Cup victories in 2002 and 2008 (with another near-victory in 2009), as well as having brought home 3 Selke Trophies and 4 Lady Byng awards. The “Magic Man” is beloved by fans in Russia and Detroit alike, perpetually leaving those who watch him in wonder and awe. Even when the rumors of Datsyuk headed back overseas first started popping up, his fans did not lash out at him or scream about salary cap space or contractual obligations. Rather, they showed him exactly how much he means to the team and the city, chanting “One More Year” at a recent ceremony honoring his 600 assists with the team.

Datsyuk is more than aware of the $7.5 million cap hit he will be leaving in Detroit’s lap. “I feel very bad about it,” he said, mentioning that he wishes he would have done a year-by-year contract rather than the 3 year deal that kicked in when he was 36 years old. Due to Datsyuk being over 35 when he signed the deal, the CBA dictates that his retirement would leave the Red Wings with what is essentially a paid empty roster spot. Though no real money would actually be paid out, the hit against a $72 million salary cap would be near-crippling.

CAP IMPLICATIONS

As Adam Laskaris first outlined when the rumors started floating last week, Detroit would actually have an option besides sitting with more than 10% of their salary cap in dead weight. By trading Datsyuk’s contract to a team looking to reach the salary cap floor, the Red Wings would incur a $2 million cap hit as a penalty for moving his contract, but would be free of the other $5.5 million. This option would leave Detroit a significant amount of cap space (and a top-6 roster spot) to possibly pursue a big-name free agent this summer – namely Steven Stamkos.

Trading a long-time Red Wing and team legend like Datsyuk, even if just for the sake of business and without any real games played, would not sit well with a large number of fans. The thought of having to endure “Coyotes legend Pavel Datsyuk” jokes (see: Martin Brodeur) for the rest of time is enough to make diehard fans wretch, however one must establish the cost-benefit analysis and determine whether or not an opportunity can be made by this untimely departure. The Red Wings have been a fringe playoff team for a few seasons now, never really making the postseason with much confidence and not having reached the Conference Finals since 2009. Though no fan or member of the Red Wings organization would like to see Pavel Datsyuk leave the team, it seems to be beyond Ken Holland or the Illitch family’s control. Holland has communicated to Datsyuk and his agent that he does not intend to move the contract, but one has to believe that the option must be, at the very least, considered.

Happier times.

The Red Wings are at a critical juncture; with much of their old guard (even aside from Datsyuk) being gone or on their way out, the architects of this team have to decide the trajectory in which the organization must move forward. Datsyuk leaving at the end of the year could be a crucial notch in that timeline, one in which a difficult, drastic, but possibly necessary decision is made that will change things up for the Red Wings. Not to insinuate that the team needs to “tank” or “blow it up and start over again,” but a franchise can only endure so many middle-of-the-pack finishes before moving up or down in the standings. By acting with more zeal than what he has typically displayed, Ken Holland can make the best of a somber situation by using this as an opportunity to give the team what it needs to succeed. Pavel Datsyuk is leaving the Red Wings, but the team must carry on.

  • jfkst1

    They’ll just end up trading his contract to a floor team. That should benefit both teams. There’s no way they can compete with $7.5 million in dead money.

  • Jones

    This is going to be hard to stomach seeing him NOT with the winged wheel on his chest. Hopefully Kenny Holland can trade off his contract and free up some space to throw some big cash at some of these RFA / UFA.

  • ubermiguel

    That contract simply needs to be moved for business reasons. I say this as a Oilers fan, but it saddens me to see Datsyuk’s career winding down; he was an amazing complete player, hard working but with high-end skill.

  • impishskald

    Family is important so I understand. I hate to see him go. Truly saddened, but I knew him and Hank wouldn’t be around for much longer. 25 years straight making it in the playoffs are nice, but hoisting the cup is much nicer.

    Right now the Wings are in a tough situation. A lot of talent, but it just isn’t clicking like it should on paper. Defense needs an overhaul. I think with this a rebuild is upon us.

    End of an era, but with every chapters end, the next one begins.

  • Harte of a Lion

    There is 1 team that might make sense for a trade and that team is coached by Mike Babcock. I can see something Like Datsyuk a first and the 3rd we owe for signing Babcock for Bozak. Is Datsyuk better? Absolutely. Are there any other teams willing to eat 7.5 million for picks and prospects? Not likely. Red Wings fans don’t kid yourselves, moving this contract won’t be cheap. Arizona already has Pronger and Florida Savard. You are adding a decent 2nd line centre who is excellent with face-offs, a decent possession player who can still contribute 45-50 points plus the addition of 1 million in cap space. If the Leafs don’t win the Lottery, they might decide they need Bozak to mentor the kids so don’t think of him as a throw away. There aren’t many free agent Centres available for 4.2 million X 2 years that can contribute at that price. Trust me when I say he will make you forget Stephen Weiss. If you don’t want Bozak, it will cost you more, Possibly a decent prospect instead of the 3rd round pick.

    Even as a diehard Leaf fan, it was easy to appreciate the talent, drive and determination he brought to the rink every shift and since he wasn’t the architect of the many Leaf collapses, I always cheered when he destroyed other teams.

    I know its a tough pill top swallow, but you have had 15 years of Datsyuk’s “Magic” and unfortunately all good things do come to an end. I can only hope that Mark Hunter can uncover a late round gem that brings as much success to the Leafs as the “Magic Man” has brought to the Red Wings.

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