Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland has made calls about trading the contract of Pavel Datsyuk, but ultimately said he’s “not overly optimistic” he can make deal.
On Saturday, Datsyuk announced he will leave the NHL in order to return to his native Russia for family reasons. He has one year at a $7.5 million salary cap hit left on his contract and it appears likely the Red Wings will be hampered by that dead salary weight for next season.
If the Red Wings terminate the deal, they won't be able to trade it and will be stuck with the salary cap hit.
The 37-year-old Datsyuk is one of the most electrifying players in Red Wings history. He won two Stanley Cups and notched 918 points in 953 career games. He also won three Selke Trophies.
“Teams are looking for lots of future assets. We understand and I understand there’s a price to be paid to try to free up the cap space, but if it’s going to be one of our top young players or a high draft pick I don’t know if it makes a whole lot of sense,” Holland said at a news conference with local reporters Saturday. “I’ll continue to work the phones and if we can find a deal that makes sense for a team to acquire his cap space that makes sense for us we’ll do a deal. If not we’ll work the best we can with Pav under contract with (our) cap space.”
Added Holland, “This is a huge loss. It’s a huge hole and it’s a very, very difficult situation.”
The Red Wings are in the midst of transitioning from one of the NHL’s more veteran groups into a younger team and being forced to trade Datsyuk’s contract, along with a young asset just to get rid of the deal for this year, made little sense to Holland and his long-term plans for the club.
The Red Wings have made the playoffs 25 straight years, which adds extra drama on the organization and this situation in general.
According to General Fanager, the Red Wings have about $60.3 million locked into 34 contracts for next season.
“Part of where we’re going is lots of young people and the beauty of young people is some of them are on their entry-level contracts,” Holland said. “We think (our team is) going to be young, we think it’s going to be competitive. But certainly you’re going to be compromised by $7.5 million tied up in a player you don’t have.”
Teams like the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes may need some help from a deal like Datsyuk’s to reach the salary cap floor. But both teams already have dead contracts signed through next season, the Coyotes in Chris Pronger’s deal and the Devils in Marc Savard’s contract.
Also a team will likely demand a high draft pick or high-end prospect in any deal for Datsyuk. The Carolina Hurricanes acquired Bryan Bickell from the Chicago Blackhawks, but were also able to get Teuvo Teravainen in the process.
Holland does have a price but said such negotiations were like trying to buy a car or a house. The deal needs to fit for both teams.
“There’s a price you can pay, there’s a price you can afford to pay and if the price gets unrealistic what do you do?” Holland asked. “You don’t buy the house you don’t buy the car. I think it’s the same thing.”
Holland said that when Datsyuk signed his three-year $22.5 million contract in the summer of 2013, the belief was Datsyuk wanted to retire as a Red Wing and would honor the length of the deal. Holland said that in negotiations for the contract that if Datsyuk wanted to stay in Detroit longer after the three years were up, he could go on a year-to-year basis like prior team veterans such as Steve Yzerman, Chris Chelios and Nicklas Lidstrom.
“I guess I would say to you looking back at the time, he’s our star player, he’s 35 years of age, the agent felt at the time, Gary Greenstin, that when Pav wanted to retire it was important for Pav to retire a Red Wing,” Holland said. “I talked about how Chelios did a one-year deal at the end and how Lidstrom did one-year deals and Yzerman did one-year deals so I said, ‘let’s do a three-year deal and if you want to play here when you’re 41 or 42 we can keep doing one-year deals. You’ve kind of seen my managing style.’”
Holland noted that Greenstin, asked for a five-year contract, so Holland countered with a three-year deal.
“I don’t think Pav had a conversation with Gary Greenstin about when he wanted to retire,” Holland said.
Added Holland, “Fortunately we didn’t sign a five-year deal, or we’d have a bigger problem on our hands.”
Holland said Datsyuk stated his desire to leave the NHL early in the 2014-15 and then Datsyuk changed agents to Dan Millstein. Holland then gave Millstein and Datsyuk a compromise of sorts. He offered to have Datsyuk play with the Red Wings in 2015-16 and then make a decision on the following year after the completion of the season.
“I tried to manage this the best I could to have Pav on our team for the 15-16 season," Holland said. “Now I’ll deal with the decision Pav made today the best I can.”
Holland said he doesn’t have any ill will towards Datsyuk and understands the decision. If anything, Datsyuk afforded him the luxury of preparing for this situation by giving him warning early in the deal.
“Pav didn’t do this knowingly. Certainly I’m disappointed that he’s not going to honor the 16-17 season, but I spent 18 months talking to him and Dan Millstein and I understand the reasons why. His heart isn’t here anymore and I tried to manage the situation the best I could,” he said. "Do I feel burned? I can’t let that emotion to come into where we were. We have to figure out a way here over the next three months to put the best product we can on the ice.”
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