The rumors appear to be true: Pavel Datsyuk’s time with the Detroit Red Wings is coming to an end.
In an exclusive interview with the Detroit Free Press’ Mitch Albom, Datsyuk explained his intent to return to his native Russia at the close of the current NHL season, leaving one year left on his contract with Detroit.
Datsyuk and I first spoke about his possible departure nearly a year ago. At that time he was already strong in his desire to rejoin his daughter Elizabeth, who is being raised in Russia by Datsyuk’s first wife, Svetlana. While the former couple enjoy a friendly relationship, Datsyuk said, he felt too absent from the day-to-day affairs of his child, and worried, as she entered adolescence (she is now 13) that he wouldn’t be there for guidance.
“It’s not an easy decision,” he said last May. “It did not happen yesterday. I talk with my daughter all the time. I see how she misses me, how she misses my advice… I want to come back and be closer.”
Datsyuk is leaving for the best reason there is. I see my daughter 50% of the time and go only days without seeing her and it’s not enough. To be away from his daughter for months on end must be a terrible burden. He has already missed so much. I don’t fault him at all for going home.
That said, given that he has reportedly been talking about this since 2012, I do fault Detroit GM Ken Holland if he doesn’t have a backup plan. Unless he makes some move – or somehow convinces Datsyuk to stay – the Red Wings will be stuck with Datsyuk’s $7.5 million salary against their salary cap next season. This is something he should have seen coming and should have planned for. We’ll see if he did.