Pavel Datsyuk confirmed Saturday that he will be leaving the NHL to finish his career in Russia. The Detroit forward has one year remaining on his three-year, $22.5 million contract. His departure will not only leave the Red Wings with a $7.5 million cap charge, but it will also leave a major hole in the lineup that may be impossible to fill. According to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, Datsyuk will sign retirement papers, which will make him ineligible to play in the NHL for the 2016-2017 season.
“This was not an easy decision but it’s time for us to return home,” Datsyuk said in a press conference Saturday.
Datsyuk, 37, known around the league as “The Magic Man,” has been one of the best two-way players in the game for years. He played 14 seasons for the Wings, accumulating 314 goals and 604 assists for a total of 918 points in 953 regular-season games. He finishes his NHL career with 42 goals and 71 assists for 113 points in 157 playoff games. The two-time Stanley Cup champion and three-time All-Star won the Selke Trophy as best defensive forward three times in his career (2008-2010) and the Lady Byng Trophy for sportsmanship four times (2006-2009). Datsyuk finishes with a career 53.8 faceoff percentage and scored 40 goals in 98 shootout attempts; only Frans Nielsen and Radim Vrbata have outscored Datsyuk in the shootout since it was first introduced in the 2005-2006 season.
Datsyuk helped the Red Wings reach the playoffs for the 25th consecutive season this year but failed to record any points in the team’s five-game series against Tampa Bay. He scored 16 goals and 49 points in 66 games this season, finishing second on the team in assists and points behind only captain Henrik Zetterberg. Datsyuk became the fourth Red Wings player to reach 300 goals and 600 assists, joining Gordie Howe, Steve Yzerman and Alex Delvecchio.
Though there were several teams that expressed interest in acquiring Datsyuk’s contract, Holland wasn’t keen on trading away additional assets just to clear cap space for one season. There is still a possibility his contract could be unloaded to a team looking to reach the cap floor, however.
Holland said he is disappointed but understand’s Datsyuk’s decision. This is something the Detroit organization has been aware of since at least February, when Datsyuk turned down a $2 million bonus contingent on him finishing out his contract in Detroit.
Datsyuk emphasized the fact that the Detroit organization did not try to influence his decision, letting him make the best personal decision for himself and for his family.
Datsyuk explained Saturday that he made the final decision on a recent vacation after the 2016 IIHF World Championship during which he helped Russia secure a bronze medal.
“I go on vacation with my family, just relax and make final decision,” Datsyuk said. “… Make sure I’m fresh my mind and just not emotional. It’s important, because it’s very important for my hockey career. This is why I just go away.”
Holland said he is obviously disappointed but that he understands Datsyuk’s decision.
“I’d like him back for another year,” Holland said. “But at the end of the day, I understand why we’re standing here and I’ll deal with it.”
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