Detroit — The odds are slim, but could Pavel Datsyuk return to the NHL?
Datstyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, told Russia’s Match TV on Wednesday that Datsyuk could return to the NHL — and, possibly, the Red Wings, if they want him — next season.
“I can tell you Pavel is not ready to quit hockey in (the) next few years,” Milstein told the television network. “So again, it’s up to him, going to America or playing in KHL.”
Datsyuk, 40, spent his entire 14-year NHL career with the Red Wings. He left the Wings to play in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and to be closer to his daughter in June 2016, but his three-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg ends after this season.
In 44 games with SKA St. Petersburg this season, Datsyuk has 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists). Datsyuk led SKA St. Petersburg to the Gagarin Cup (their Stanley Cup) in 2017, and also captained the Olympic Athletes of Russia to a gold medal at the 2018 Olympics.
Datsyuk retired from the NHL in 2016. But given the three-year window of being unable to play will have passed, Datsyuk would be eligible to be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019.
And Milstein, at least, envisions a reunion with the Wings.
“He will have a lot of options if he decides to return to the NHL,” Milstein told the Russian network. “But it’d be appropriate to return to Detroit where he spent all of his North American career.
“Though it’s up to Datsyuk. Will he want to make this comeback?”
General manager Ken Holland had no comment on the speculation.
Datsyuk was making $7.5 million per season when he chose to return to Russia — with one year left on his Wings’ contract — forcing the Wings to trade his rights to Arizona to alleviate salary cap concerns.
Though scouts have questioned whether Datsyuk can keep up with the NHL’s speed game these days, few doubt his smarts and instincts on the ice, and his ability to make plays.
“Pavel is getting slower with age, but his skill and vision are still there,” Milstein said. “People would go to the stadium to see him. It’d be lovely and appropriate for him to return to the North America. But again, he will make a decision.”