Datsyuk on leaving Wings: ‘It is not a final decision’

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

Detroit — Pavel Datsyuk stood near the white Red Wings crest emblazoned into the red carpeting on the floor of the dressing room where he has prepared for games for 14 seasons, beginning when he was just a young man.

He answered several questions before requesting only one more.

“I have to travel today,” Datsyuk said, smiling.

Answering the last one, Datsyuk flashed his mischievous humor and said, “I answered 72 questions — I counted!”

It was not quite six dozen queries. But it was a lot.

Datsyuk knew he had some explaining to do. Especially because, as he explained, he has not made up his mind.

He is not entirely certain about leaving the Wings after the playoffs and returning to Russia, he said.

“It’s hard to make a 100 percent decision now,” Datsyuk said. “Now we’re just focused on the playoffs and all of this. More fun will begin.

“I’m still going to play and be in good shape and we are looking forward to it.”

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He confidently predicted his uncertainty and the incumbent publicity will not affect his teammates.

“I just take the responsibility for this one,” he said, allowing that the situation is not optimal.

“I don’t think it will be a distraction. I think it’ll put us together and make it a good round.”

What bothers him considerably, Datsyuk said, is the thought that if he leaves, the Wings could be stuck with the tab for a season he does not play. If the Red Wings cannot find an NHL franchise to take on his $7.5 million cap hit as a way of reaching the minimum total salary required under the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union, they are on the hook for the full freight.

“Yeah, I’m ready to tell about this one: Yeah, I make a mistake,” he said.

“I should probably have signed year by year. But now this has happened, and can’t make it different anymore.”

But the fact of the matter is, he said, his mind is not made up and he has been talking about it to try to make things as clear as he can, especially to the fans.

“It’s not a final decision, 100 percent,” he said.

“I have a tough time. I always wanted to play at home.

“But this is the best league. I want to play here. And this is the best organization. They always help me.

“I want to stay as much as how it is possible with this organization.”

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So, after another report surfaced April 2 about his prospective departure from the Wings, a year after the original reports, and then Datsyuk talked, albeit obliquely, with assembled media April 4, why not just leave it be? Especially since he has not made up his mind.

“There was a lot of information going around,” Datsyuk said, with a shrug. “And it bothered me, and bothered me more. It was a problem.

“And I wanted to be fair with everybody, especially with my fans.”

Some in the organization are not pleased the controversy percolated at the end of the season, and then Datsyuk re-ignited it just before the playoffs without putting it to rest.

Regardless, Datsyuk said, the playoffs are enormously important to him.

“For me, it’s every playoffs are special,” he said. “Probably now, it’s a little bit more.

“It’s just more focused, game by game. When you’re looking to win one series and then another one, another one, we are fighting for the Cup not for just to make it consecutive playoffs.”

Weighing heavily on his decision to leave is a serious, stubborn ankle injury that has lingered, and about which he and the Red Wings have been less than forthcoming. But it clearly affects his performance, even now.

“Every day it’s much better, but it’s a long way,” he said of a full recovery. “And they just tell me before, it’s not easy.

“I would love to go straight and jump like when I was young. But doc and everyone tell me, be patient.”

Datsyuk said injuries are part of the game. But he acknowledged that, as players get older, it is “more hard to come back.”

Asked if the long recovery might be complete by the start of next season, perhaps returning some of his speed and ability to deceive, Datsyuk said, “I would love to.”

But he joked the coaches probably would insist he play with a faster player.

So, what are the precise factors that will help him decide to stay or go?

“I’m not really thinking about it now, what will make it 100 percent or something,” he said. “Now, it’s more focused on the playoffs, and I’d appreciate it if we just finish it today and keep it in the playoffs and talk about the playoffs.

“Of course, maybe the season will be over and we’ll come back and talk about it more.”