Detroit Red Wings Need to Weigh Pavel Datsyuk Return Carefully

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TAMPA, FL - APRIL 21: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Former Detroit Red Wings great Pavel Datsyuk is thinking about a return to the National Hockey League. His agent Dan Millstein told Russia’s Match TV the he could return to North America next season.

The 40-year-old played 14 seasons in Hockeytown and helped Detroit to a pair of Stanley Cup titles before returning to Russia. He’s played for SKA Saint Petersburg the last couple of seasons and won the KHL’s Gagarin Cup and an Olympic gold medal in the process.

Datsyuk becomes a free agent on May 1st after his contract expires. His agent envisions a return to Detroit, but the Wings should stay away from their beloved forward.

The Pros of Pavel Datsyuk

He has nine goals and 25 assists for 34 points in 44 games with SKA this season. Datsyuk has slowed down over the years, but he can still use his hockey sense, quick hands, and playmaking ability.

The Red Wings are 18th in the league in goals scored with 143 and Datsyuk could help drum up some scoring. Young forwards like Andreas Athanasiou, Filip Zadina, Dylan Larkin and others could benefit from learning from one of the masters of the game.

He’s also been in the wars of high-pressure hockey for many years. Datsyuk has been a part of many winning hockey teams at all levels. A young team like Detroit would love a veteran that can show them how to win games.

Questions and Concerns

However, would he be content with being a third-liner? There’s no question he’s a great team player but it’s always hard for anyone to accept a diminished role. Many people remember him being a dynamic top-six forward, but he would likely take a reduced role at the bottom of the lineup.

Datsyuk’s deal was actually property of the Arizona Coyotes because of Red Wings general manager Ken Holland had to move his $7.5 million deal to alleviate salary cap concerns.  However, it expired at the end of last season. The decorated Russian will have to take somewhat of a pay cut in order to fit into the salary cap. Detroit will have more money off the books if they make trade deadline deals, but defence and finding a future goalie is something that should be a little more pressing.

The Wings are also trying to use their team speed to play faster with their young players. Datsyuk may not have the wheels that he used to have. Players like Athanasiou and Larkin are some of the speedier skaters in the NHL. The analogy of a pressing team in basketball being harmed by a slower player could be fitting. Datsyuk will turn 41 this July.

Another question is whether or not he wants to be part of a rebuilding club. Datsyuk made the post-season in all 14 years with the club. Does he want to wrap up his career by blemishing his perfect playoff record with the club?

The Last Word

Having Pavel Datsyuk back in the fold isn’t a simple yes-or-no proposition. His savvy and skill would help a young team in the midst of a rebuild. However, there are some negatives that don’t make his return an automatic “yes.”

Jaromir Jagr returned from a spell in the KHL to have a solid second stanza of his NHL career. He was smartly deployed in situations that allowed him to succeed. Ilya Kovalchuk recently returned from Russia, but the jury is still out on him because he’s been injured.

The Detroit Red Wings will have to weigh all the possibilities on if they want to bring back one of their all-time greats. He has to fit in with the game plan.

TAMPA, FL – APRIL 21: Pavel Datsyuk #13 of the Detroit Red Wings checks his stick before a face-off against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 21, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

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