BREAKING: Pavel Datsyuk officially announces return to Russia

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Since the end of last season, when the Detroit Red Wings were defeated by the Tampa Bay Lighting in the opening round of the 2016 NHL Playoffs, some news broke afterwards that was nerve-wracking to many Red Wing followers. Pavel Datsyuk let it be known that the 2016 playoff year might be his last appearance in the NHL.

With family reasons being the main reason for the departure from the NHL and the Wings, Datsyuk has been wanting to return to his native land of Russia for quite sometime now. He has a 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth back in Russia that he wants to be more involved with.

“It’s not an easy decision,” he said last May. “It did not happen yesterday. I talk with my daughter all the time. I see how she misses me, how she misses my advice…I want to come back and be closer.”

It’s something you can definitely respect, but then at the same time you get that empty feeling in the pit of your stomach. Yes, Datsyuk turns 38 in July and the prime of his playing days are behind him, but there is no denying that his presence on an NHL sheet of ice is like no other player in the league. Teams plan differently knowing they are going up against him. He’s still got one of the slickest set of hands, not just in the league, but the entire world. Not having him on the roster will be a big loss.

The Red Wings have some youngsters that are surely capable of replacing the now vacant spot left behind from Datsyuk’s departure, but there is a bigger name that has been circulating ever since the news of Datsyuk’s possible departure came about. The Wings have been linked to the Steven Stamkos sweepstakes and are said to be one of the teams that will really make an effort to land him in the Motor City. When the news broke yesterday that today would most likely be the day that the Red Wings make the announcement that Pavel Datsyuk’s time in Detroit is up, the Stamkos news really picked up.

The open center position left behind by Datsyuk surely opens the door for the Wings to make a run at Stamkos. It’s a very intriguing situation, especially given that Pavel going back to Russia is now a sure thing. As TSN’s Darren Dreger said though, if Detroit wants to make such a move, they would have to let some young blood go and a higher round pick being that Datsyuk leaves behind a $7.5 million cap hit. He signed a three-year extension with the Wings in the 2013 off-season, 3 years ago today actually, and still has the one year mentioned left on his deal. Whether they find a way to move the contract or just end up eliminating the contract entirely and take the $7.5 million cap hit, it will be interesting to see how the situation plays itself out.

It’s a sad day in Hockeytown today, one of the greats to ever put on a Red Wing jersey is off into the sunset with one hell of a legacy left behind.

Thank you for everything, Pav!