Holland thinks Datsyuk won’t return to Wings

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News
Pavel Datsyuk sits in his locker after the team photo was taken Monday.

Detroit – Pavel Datsyuk said Monday he will decide in June, after playing in the World Championships next month, whether he will return to the Red Wings. General manager Ken Holland said that if the price is too high to dump Datsyuk’s $7.5 million hit on the salary cap, the team will simply swallow it.

Meanwhile, Wings players and management appear to assume Datsyuk will leave.

“It’s not enough time now, and I don’t want to rush,” Datsyuk said, standing in the Red Wings’ dressing room as it was cleaned out after the annual team photograph.

“It’s a real tough decision for me.

“Hopefully, when I got back to play for the World Championships, I’ll think about it more. Probably after World Championship in June, I’ll meet with Ken Holland and make a final decision, probably.”

Datsyuk, 37, said he is feeling “a lot” of pressure because of the potential impact on the Wings’ salary cap. But he reiterated he believes he made a mistake when he signed a three-year deal, and that he was unaware of the potential of leaving the team strapped with his salary.

“Of course, I feel pressure,” he said. “I made a mistake with this one.”

Holland said he believes Datsyuk is likely gone.

“Given my conversations with Pav and (his agent) Dan Milstein over the past year, given what’s going on back there with his teammates taking pictures and doing things with him, I guess I could probably expect news that he’s not coming back,” Holland said.

“Going to give him all the time he needs.

“I’m hoping he’s coming back but I’d probably be a bit naïve to sit here and say, ‘Oh, life’s going to go on. Pav’s going to be back.’”

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Both Henrik Zetterberg and Niklas Kronwall said they believe they know what Datsyuk will do, but they were unwilling to discuss it until he makes the decision public.

Holland said he is making contingency plans.

“As we head into the summer, I’m probably formulating two plans,” he said. “A plan with Pav and a plan without Pav.

“And, obviously, another question I have is: If you don’t have Pav, what do you do about the cap space? That’s certainly going to be a problem, a concern, something to deal with.”

As NHL teams have done in the past amid similar circumstances, teams can trade a high-value contract under the cap to a team that must struggle to make the minimum salary floor set by the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players’ union. A few teams every year barely make the minimum and some are interested in absorbing a big salary, even if the player does not play.”

But they often expect a valuable draft pick or prospect in return, and the Wings view of the status of the roster is that draft picks and prospects are exactly what they need.

“My take would be if he’s not here, certainly you’d like to move the cap space,” Holland said. “If the price is going to be lots of futures, it doesn’t make any sense.

“It doesn’t make any sense if Pav’s got one year left on the contract to pay prime prospects or a prime draft pick to free up one year of cap space, given where this franchise is because of the 25 years of being in the playoffs and not picking very high. So, we’ll see.”

A number of Red Wings seemed resigned to Datsyuk’s fate and expressed a lot of support for one of their leaders over the past decade.

“He’s going to do what he wants to do,” Gustav Nyquist said. “He’s been a great player with this organization for a long time and he’s still one of the best players in the league. It’s been great having him here as a teammate and I learned a lot from him.

“But whatever he wants to do, he’ll do what’s best for him and his family. We’d love to have him back but it’s up to him.”

Justin Abdelkader, who earned Datsyuk’s respect for his work habits as a linemate, said, “It’s his decision to make. He’ll do what’s in his heart. All we can do is just thank him for what he’s done for this organization.”

“I need more time,” he said.

Datsyuk said playing in Russia for a month in the World Championships will give him time to think.

He said that the idea of last games, last practices, last times with his Red Wings’ teammates had not yet crossed his mind.

“I’m not thinking about last time,” he said. “To me it’s a bad time now, especially when we didn’t get our job done (in the playoffs).”

As he has done, sometimes, Datsyuk tried to steer clear of discussing his family and its impact on his decision.

“There are many factors,” he said. “Everybody has their own decision and own opinion. I want to make it my decision. I don’t want to hear from people what they want.”

Asked if he still believes he has better hockey in him than he played this year, especially if his balky ankle has a better chance to heal, he said, “You never hear any players say before they die, ‘Oh, I can’t play anymore.’

“I think every player believes they can keep playing.”