Mike Halford

Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk acknowledges the crowd after an NHL hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers in Detroit Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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Report: Datsyuk to play for Russia at Worlds

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Where Pavel Datsyuk plays next year remains a mystery.

Where he plays next month, though, appears to be set in stone.

Per Sport Express — by way of MLive — Datsyuk will represent Russia at the 2016 World Hockey Championships which, not coincidentally, will be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Over the last month, various reports have linked Datsyuk to a return to his native country next season, even though he has one year remaining on his contract with the Red Wings. The 37-year-old told The Free Press’ Mitch Albom “I think I am done playing in NHL,” but said he might not be done playing hockey.

It’s believed Datsyuk would latch on with a KHL club if he leaves Detroit,. in order to spend more time with his 13-year-old daughter, who lives in Russia.

Following last night’s season-ending loss, the “Magic Man” said he was still undecided about what he’s going to do.

“I’m not thinking about two days or how many days,” Datsyuk explained. “I need a little bit cool down and emotions go out and start thinking about it more.”

At first glance, the situation looks sticky because Datsyuk’s final year — in which he’s owed $5.5 million in salary, and carries a $7.5M cap hit — could be problematic for Detroit’s finances.

But, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli, the issue might not be that complicated:

If Datsyuk does not report for training camp, the Red Wings (or any team which acquires him) can suspend him for breach of contract, two NHL cap managers confirmed on Friday. That team would then not be responsible for paying him any of the $5.5 million due to him in actual cash.

No team, including the Red Wings, would owe him a dollar. Datsyuk’s $7.5 million salary-cap hit, a paper penalty in theory, could prove valuable to a small-market team struggling to hit the cap floor or spending minimum.

Related: Datsyuk’s agent basically gives non-answer about Russia rumors

‘Canes stay busy, ink Nordstrom to two-year, $2.55M extension

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 27:  Joakim Nordstrom #42 of the Carolina Hurricanes advances the puck against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on December 27, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hurricanes defeated the Blackhawks 2-1.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Shortly after inking Jake Chelios — yes, the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — the Carolina Hurricanes announced they signed forward Joakim Nordstrom to a two-year, $2.55 million extension, one that carries a $1.275M average annual cap hit.

“Joakim took a major step forward in his career last season,” said GM Ron Francis in a release. “We expect him to continue to grow as both a player and a leader on our team.”

Nordstrom, acquired along with Kris Versteeg from Chicago in September, enjoyed his greatest NHL success in 2015-16. The 24-year-old posted career highs in games played (71), goals (10), assists (14) and points (24) and was a valuable member of Bill Peters’ penalty killing unit, which finished sixth in the league.

Very quietly, Francis has done a nice job of scooping these types of players away from other organizations, getting them to produce, then signing them to reasonable, low-cost extensions.

Andrej Nestrasil, claimed off waivers from Detroit, signed a two-year, $1.825 million extension last summer.

Eddie Lack, acquired from Vancouver for a third- and seventh-round pick, inked a two-year, $5.5M extension just prior to the start of the regular season.

Hurricanes sign Chris Chelios’ kid

New Jersey Devils v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Carolina liked what it saw from Jake Chelios in AHL Charlotte last year.

So, the ‘Canes are keeping him around.

On Thursday, the club announced that Chelios — the son of Hockey Hall of Famer Chris Chelios — has agreed to a one-year, two-way deal worth $575,000 at the NHL level.

“Jake was a steady presence for Charlotte last season in his first full season playing defense,” ‘Canes GM Ron Francis said in a release. “He showed that he can contribute offensively and, at 25, he fits in well with our organization’s young defensemen.”

Chelios, 25, has bounced around the professional game since wrapping a four-year career at Michigan State. He’s played in the ECHL (Toledo, Kalamazoo) and spent some time with St. Louis’ AHL affiliate in Chicago before landing in Charlotte.

With the Checkers, Chelios had the greatest success of his career, scoring 31 points in 73 games. He ranked second among team defensemen in assists (24) and points (31), and tied for second among Checkers blueliners in goals , with seven.

Jets part ways with AHL coach McCambridge

Kevin Cheveldayoff

Winnipeg has opted not to renew the contract of AHL Manitoba bench boss Keith McCambridge, who led the club to the Calder Cup Final just two years ago.

“This morning we informed Keith McCambridge that we will not be renewing his contract for the 2016-17 season as Head Coach of the Manitoba Moose,” GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a release. “We thank Keith for his professionalism, leadership, and coaching over the past five seasons as well as for his previous years of service as a Moose Assistant Coach.”

McCambridge, 42, worked closely with a number of Winnipeg’s prized young prospects this past season. Connor Hellebuyck, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Brendan Lemieux and J.C. Lipon all spent time in Manitoba, with several getting a look at the NHL level.

Of course, the AHL club has failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons, and won just 26 games this year.

No word yet on who’s in line to replace McCambridge in Manitoba.

 

Stars to stick with Niemi tonight, Ruff ‘tired of explaining our two goalie thing’

Dallas Stars goalie Antti Niemi (31) subs in for goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 6-5. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
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Most teams wouldn’t park their starting netminder after he won two of his first three playoff starts.

The Dallas Stars aren’t most teams, however.

After Kari Lehtonen backstopped Dallas to a 2-1 series lead over Minnesota, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff went to Antti Niemi for Game 4, and Niemi responded with 28 saves in a 3-2 win.

Now, with the Stars on the verge of closing out the Wild, Niemi will be back in goal tonight.

It’s an unconventional methodology, to say the least, but one that’s gotten the job done — which is partly why Ruff said he’s tired of talking about it.

“I’ve been asked this almost 82 games this year,” Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “I’m tired of explaining our two goalie thing, but it’s been working and it’s been a good option for us.”

To be fair, Dallas’ goaltending situation has been unique for a long time.

Ever since GM Jim Nill went out and acquired Niemi at the draft, then signed him to a three-year, $13.5 million contract, then plan was to have both goalies play significant minutes this year, and share starting duties.

“Travel in the West is probably as tough as it can get, and in Dallas, probably worse than a lot of other teams,” he explained, per NHL.com. “Between the travel, the back-to-back situations, how close our division — if it’s not the toughest, it’s one of the toughest — the competition, a win here on the road, a win there in a back-to-back, if a goalie gets injured, we know we now have that covered.”

At some point, everyone assumed Dallas would have to anoint a clear-cut, this-is-our-guy, No. 1 netminder. Most assumed that decision would come in the playoffs.

But the Stars figured, hey, the goalie tandem worked for us all year long, and we did finish atop the Western Conference.

So why not try it in the postseason?

“We’re comfortable using both of them,” Ruff explained. “And both these guys have done a real good job.”