One week after Elliotte Friedman reported about the rumors, Pavel Datsyuk confirmed that this will likely be his last season in the NHL.
Speaking with Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press, Datsyuk said that family reasons are why he will more than likely return to Russia this summer. He added that he’s not retiring, so the Datsyuk KHL sweepstakes are officially under way.
Datsyuk downplayed the rumors earlier this week when asked about them, but now that the Detroit Red Wings have qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs they’ll no longer serve as a distraction. If anything, this gives the team a little more motivation for a deep run and to send-off him off memorably.
Red Wings fans chanted “One more year!” when Datsyuk was honored at Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday after reaching the 600 career assists milestone. That hit him.
“It was a very tearful moment,” he admitted Friday, through his agent’s translation. “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.”
The desire to be part of his daughter Elizabeth’s life now that she’s 13 played a big part in Datsyuk’s decision as he told Albom. The idea of him returning for Russia has been out there for several years now and he admitted that he wished he had chosen to sign one-year contracts rather than a three-year extension in 2013. His $7.5 salary cap hit will remain with the Red Wings before coming off the books following the 2016-17 NHL season.
“I don’t want to leave team in disaster,” he said. “But if I have to do over again, I would sign a different deal. I didn’t realize it at the time.”
That $7.5 million could help Red Wings general manager Ken Holland in re-signing RFA’s Teemu Pulkkinen, Riley Sheahan, Danny DeKeyser and Petr Mrazek, among the other pending RFAs and UFAs on the roster. Detroit could always trade Datsyuk and his cap hit in the summer to free up space and help a team get over the cap floor, something he said he would understand. But oddly, his agent told Albom that the Wings “have told him that would not happen.”
Datsyuk's agent, Dan Milstein, told ESPN.com's Craig Custance that they'll meet with Holland the Red Wings ownership after the season to discuss the future. While No. 13 seems like he has his mind made up, Milstein added, "It's not over until it's over. This chapter is not closed right now."
One of Hakan Andersson’s finds, Datsyuk was selected 171st overall in the 1998 draft. He made his debut in 2001 and was a part of two Stanley Cup winning Red Wings teams in 2002 and 2008. He’s won the Selke Trophy three times and the Lady Byng four times.. He’s earned Olympic bronze with Russia and gold, silver and bronze at the World Championships. His final stat line will read 314 goals and 918 points in 953 NHL games.
Datsyuk was a human highlight-reel and rightfully earned the “Magic Man” nickname, just ask Siri.
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