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Wings' Datsyuk expected to announce decision Saturday

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Pavel Datsyuk skates in the world championships last month.

Detroit — The long-awaited meeting between Pavel Datsyuk and Red Wings general manager Ken Holland was scheduled to happen Friday evening.

The Wings expected the meeting would resolve the question of whether Datsyuk would play for the Wings next season or remain in Russia.

Datsyuk’s agent Dan Milstein said Datsyuk and Holland would meet Friday evening and Datsyuk will hold a “media day” — which has long been scheduled — at noon Saturday.

Milstein said Holland and Datsyuk had been scheduled to meet earlier this week. But the death of Gordie Howe, and subsequent visitation and funeral, delayed the meeting.

Datsyuk is running a skill development camp at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s this weekend.

Milstein offered no further details about the meeting with Holland but said Datsyuk has wanted all along to speak with Holland before announcing his decision publicly.

Holland, who is in Red Wings organizational meetings until Saturday, had no immediate comment.

Since the Red Wings were eliminated from the playoffs in late April, Holland has been consistent in his belief Datsyuk was leaning toward returning to Russia.

During the Red Wings' locker clean-out day in April Holland said, “Given my past conversations with Pavel and Dan Milstein over the last year, given what’s been going back there (in the locker room), taking pictures with teammates, I guess I would probably expect news that he’s not coming back.

“I’m hoping he’s coming back but I’d probably be a bit naïve to be sitting here and saying life’s going to go on and Pav’s going to be back, so as we head into summertime I’m formulating two plans — a plan with Pav and a plan without Pav.”

Datsyuk, who’ll be 38 in July, said at the conclusion of the regular season and playoffs he is leaning toward returning to Russia to be near his teenage daughter.

Several Russian Kontinential Hockey League teams have already expressed interest in signing Datsyuk, who has stated often during his career he would like to play in Russia — in front of his family and friends — at some point in his professional hockey career.

Datsyuk’s departure from the NHL would hurt the Red Wings on the ice — and in a business sense, in terms of the salary cap.

If Datsyuk were to leave, the Red Wings would still be stuck with his $7.5 million salary-cap hit because Datsyuk was signed after he turned 35.

The Red Wings would likely search for a team that could use Datsyuk’s cap hit — Arizona, Carolina and New Jersey are options — in a trade.

That team wouldn’t have to pay Datsyuk a penny — but can use that space to reach the salary-cap floor (minimum).

But those teams would want a sweetener to take on that cap space, just as Carolina did this week in acquiring Chicago forward Bryan Bickell (and his $4 million cap space).

The Hurricanes were able to acquire young Chicago forward Teuvo Teravainen — who starred during the Blackhawks’ 2015 Stanley Cup win.

Holland said he would not trade an early-round draft pick or top prospect to simply get rid of Datsyuk’s salary cap space for one year.

But if the Red Wings were able to rid themselves of Datsyuk’s contract, it would increase significant financial flexibility.

If they can free the $7.5 million of cap space, the Red Wings are likely to bid for possible unrestricted free agent forward Steven Stamkos — arguably the best player on the free agent market — on July 1.

Datsyuk would retire as one of the greatest Red Wings players. He won two Stanley Cups with them, was awarded the Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) three times, and four Lady Byng (gentlemanly player) trophies.

Datsyuk returned from off-season ankle surgery to play in 66 games last season. He scored 16 goals and had 33 assists (49 points).

In 953 games with the Red Wings Datsyuk had 918 points (314 goals, 604 assists).

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

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