Datsyuk Headed Back To Russia, Where Do The Red Wings Go From Here?

Pavel Datsyuk

The rumors about the “Magic Man” have now become a reality. As reported by ESPN, long-time Detroit Red Wings forward, Pavel Datsyuk, confirmed on Saturday that he will be leaving the NHL and returning to his home country of Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). 

Datsyuk, 37, still has one year remaining on his contract and because he signed the three-year deal with Detroit at the age of 35, the Red Wings will be stuck with his $7.5 million salary cap hit in 2016-2017.   

Pavel Datsyuk departs the NHL as the Red Wings’ sixth-best point producer in franchise history (918), seventh all-time goal scorer (314), and fifth all-time in assists (604) during his 953-game career. Datsyuk won two Stanley Cups as a member of the Red Wings (2002, 2008) and played all 14 of his NHL seasons with Detroit. Along with his two Stanley Cup Championships, Datsyuk has also won the Selke Trophy (best two-way defenseman) three times and the Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship) four times. 

Mainly known for his exceptional ability to stick handle through opponents and his impressively unique set of dekes and hands, Pavel Datsyuk has long been known as arguably the most gifted and most talented player to ever put on a Detroit Red Wings sweater along with Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman. Datsyuk is not the first player to leave the NHL in order to go play overseas, as future Hall of Famer Jaromir Jagr left the NHL and spent three seasons in the KHL in 2008 before returning in 2011 while former New Jersey Devils star forward Ilya Kovalchuk also retired from the NHL in 2013 to return to the Motherland.  

With Datsyuk now gone, times are about to drastically change in the Motor City. Not only are the Red Wings set to move out of their longtime home of Joe Louis Arena and into the new Little Caesars Arena in 2017-2018, but now, the franchise could also be seeing a massive shift in terms of its core players over the next two-three years. Pavel Datsyuk was certainly a major part of the core of Detroit Red Wings along with forward and team captain, Henrik Zetterberg (35), and defenseman Niklas Kronwall (35). With the Magic Man now gone and Zetterberg and Kronwall skating deep into the back nine of their careers, it is safe to assume that the Red Wings are going to start getting younger and younger as the next several years progress. Players such as Dylan Larkin (19), Gustav Nyquist (26), Justin Abdelkader (29) and Danny DeKeyser (26) now look to be both the present and the future of this team. The Detroit Red Wings may no longer be the year in and year out Cup contender that we are so used to seeing over the last decade and a half, but, even without Pavel Datsyuk this franchise still has a lot of things to look forward to in both the present and the future as long as they are able to keep this core of players together. The one thing this team lacks is a young and stellar two-way defenseman, so look for the ‘Wings to be active during 2016 free agency with UFA’s such as Keith Yandle (29) and Kris Russell (29) due to be on the market.

Stats via Hockey-Reference.

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