By Chris Zadorozny
At the end of the 2013-2014 season, Pavel Datsyuk will become a free agent. At this time next year, you could be watching the last month of his NHL career.
This week, a rumor began to circulate through the Detroit Media grapevine that Pavel Datsyuk will return to Russia and the KHL when his contract expires in 2014. He could be set to retire from the Detroit Red Wings and the NHL, but continue to play in Russia to finish his career.
Pavel Datsyuk hasn’t confirm these rumors, nor has he even spoke about it. It would be wise for him to ignore the media speculation so it doesn’t serve as a full-time distraction in the Wings locker room.
However, what options do the Red Wings have if Datsyuk walks away from the only team he’s known in the NHL?
First and foremost, the Red Wings should do everything they can possibly do to keep him. Datsyuk is the star of the offense and one of the best two-way forwards in the game. He is currently making $6.7 million a year through the 2014 season.
In July 2013, the Red Wings free agents include: Valterri Filppula, Dan Cleary, Damien Brunner, Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist, Drew Miller, Ian White, Jakub Kindl, Brendan Smith, Kent Huskins and Jimmy Howard.
In July 2014 (Datsyuk’s potential retirement from the NHL) Red Wings free agents include: Mikael Samuelsson, Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves, Cory Emmerton, Kyle Quincey, Jonathon Ericsson, Carlo Colaiacovo and Jonas Gustavsson.
Basically, the only players on the roster that aren’t free agents in the next two years are Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall, and Brian Lashoff. There’s your future right there. It’s not very big and not very promising with all of the free agents.
Howard is rumored to be working on a 6-8 year extension averaging about $5 million per year with the Red Wings to keep him around for the rest of his career. He’s clearly someone the Red Wings need to hang on to.
Looking on offense, Brunner needs to be kept around, but definitely at a higher price than he has now. He is currently making $1.35 million, the entry-level deal into the league. The Red Wings will probably keep him around the $3-$4 million range for the next 4-5 years.
Filppula is in a contract year and it’s possible he could leave for more money. He could make $3.5-$4 million if the Red Wings decide to keep him around, for 3-4 years. Andersson could be kept around on a new deal as he is a restricted free agent. He hasn’t contributed much this season but has shown flashes of greatness and is a relatively young player who could be part of the Red Wings future. I wouldn’t expect more than $1 million to keep him around.
Nyquist will certainly be kept around, but the money and years still boggle me. He has the skills to be a top forward in the league, but will he get it with limited NHL experience? Drew Miller could be let go as the Red Wings hope to make the fourth line a little younger.
On defense, the Red Wings will keep Brendan Smith; they’ve invested too much into the talented two-way defender to let him walk out the door. There’s a strong possibility that Ian White will be let go after spending 10+ games as a health scratch this season. Kindl could be kept around unless they can find a better (and cheaper) replacement.
Ken Holland will be looking for high-profile defenseman in the upcoming off-season A few names who fit the bill are unrestricted free agent Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney.
As for the restricted free agents (which Holland tends to steer away from), the Red Wings could pursue Zach Bogosian of the Winnipeg Jets and Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues.
As the Red Wings try to stretch their 21 season playoff streak, you can only wonder if the party’s over if Datsyuk leaves in 2014.
To read the original post that appeared online on Sports Radio Detroit, on March 17, 2013, go to www.sportsradiodetroit.com.