The rumours started earlier this year that Pavel Datsyuk may be considering a return to the NHL. They were initially described as “whispers”, with the 41-year-old unwilling to confirm or deny his intentions past this year. Well, the whispers have turned into loud voices as Datsyuk announced the end of his time with SKA St. Petersburg this morning.
До встречи, Петербург! pic.twitter.com/jwwsAxt2Sr
— Pavel Datsyuk (@Datsyuk13) May 1, 2019
The post roughly translates as follows (thanks to Facebook translation):
The St. Petersburg stage of my career has come to an end. These were memorable years.
I want to say thank you to the ska club. In St. Petersburg there are wonderful conditions for games and trianing, attentive staff – all this helps to concentrate exclusively on hockey. Such a system is not a single year, and this is a huge merit of the club’s leadership.
Thank you to all the coaches with whom I managed to work in ska, thanks to all my partners, we went through a lot together.
And, of course, a huge thank you to all the ska fans who always before the refusal to filled the ice palace and were with the team on all without exception retreats. We play for you.
Thank you, St. Peterbsburg!
While Datsyuk doesn’t speak to what’s next for him in his official announcement, his agent Dan Milstein is always ready to stir the pot. He is the one who I believe started the rumours earlier this year and, this morning following Datsyuk’s announcement, tweeted the following:
— Dan Milstein-Hockey (@HockeyAgent1) May 1, 2019
This makes it very clear that Milstein and Datsyuk are working on his future. In his 31 Thoughts blog post, Elliot Friedman reported that Ken Holland had already had internal discussions about bringing Datsyuk back and that Datsyuk was at least considering it.
Further to this, multiple Detroit news outlets have spoken to Milstein and are reporting that the Red Wings are the only club that Datsyuk would every consider playing for in the NHL. So, if Datsyuk truly feels he has two more years left in him and wants to retire with a season in his hometown of Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg, then that leaves one season for him to play in the NHL.
There are a couple of hurdles still to be jumped, though. For one, the Arizona Coyotes hold Datsyuk’s rights until July 1st, at which point he becomes an unrestricted free agent. If Datsyuk truly won’t play anywhere but Detroit, then it shouldn’t be too big of an issue to let his rights expire and sign him on or after July 1.
The other hurdle, though, will be to convince new general manager Steve Yzerman that Datsyuk can be of service to this team. The Red Wings are already weighed down heavily with veteran presence. In today’s NHL, youthful speed and skill are at a premium and, while Datsyuk still thinks the game at a high level, his reaction time isn’t what it used to be. The big question is whether or not you can fit him into this roster without taking away from another young player’s development.
Personally, I don’t see how it makes sense to bring Datsyuk back. That being said, if the Wings are going to go out and sign a veteran anyways, I’d take Datsyuk over Thomas Vanek every day of the week.
At the time of this writing, Datsyuk’s camp had not spoken to Yzerman or even reached out to him yet. Pavel is scheduled to be in Detroit mid-May, so I expect more information will be leaked then.
It would be nice to see a proper Datsyuk farewell season in Detroit and the NHL, but at what cost? Yzerman would have to move a few other pieces for it to make any sense. Datsyuk was a huge part of past Red Wings teams, but with the focus now on the future, perhaps the past is where he should stay.