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Detroit — Pavel Datsyuk is officially a pro hockey player in Russia.

Datsyuk, 37, who ended his brilliant career with the Red Wings last month, officially agreed to a two-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, worth 250 million rubles annually – approximately $3.8 million. Datsyuk said late in the regular season he was leaning toward returning to Russia to be closer to his teenage daughter, who lives there with Datsyuk’s first wife.

The Red Wings were stuck with the $7.5 million salary cap hit which Datsyuk had on the final year of his contract – until general manager Ken Holland was able to trade the contract to Arizona at the Entry Draft.

Datsyuk released a statement on his Facebook page, thanking fans.

Dear Friends,

I am blessed to have received an offer to continue my hockey career at home with SKA in St. Petersburg. It was a difficult decision to retire from the Red Wings and NHL, but in my heart, I believe it is the best decision for me an my family.

“My decision was not an easy one. Your support of the Detroit Red Wings and of me personally has meant so much to me. I arrived a young man that few had heard of and I am leaving with so many offering their kind wishes,love and respect. I am so thankful. You have provided so much for me and my family and I will be forever graceful to the game of hockey, the NHL, the Detroit Red Wings and most importantly, to you, our fans.

“With the reality that I will no longer be a Red Wing or playing in the NHL, I realize there are a lot of people I would like to personally thank.

“I also want to especially thank Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and the entire Ilitch family for all their support over the years. They are tremendous owners and I loved playing for them. Similarly, I owe a great deal to Ken Holland for his understanding and support during the last few years in particular, but really throughout my career. Ken and the entire organization have always treated me well and he, together with all of the organization, are a major reason why every player in the league wants to play in Detroit.

"I would also like to thank all of my teammates. We have had many successes, and many times fell short of our goals, but it has been an honor and privilege to play by your side.

“I also want to thank all of my coaches, in particular Mike Babcock for his support, wisdom and guidance over most of my career and Jeff Blashill for taking over and leading us to another playoff year. I am confident that Coach Blashill will have a high level of success and will continue to add to the great history of the Detroit Red Wings.

“Finally and most importantly, to the fans of the Detroit Red Wings throughout Michigan, the United States and Canada (as well as those in Russia and elsewhere). I so appreciated your passionate support over the years and truly enjoyed playing for you. I loved playing in Detroit!

“From the bottom of my heart I thank you all for everything.”

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