No NHL return for Pavel Datsyuk, who signs one-year deal to stay in KHL

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If there was a glimmer of hope that Pavel Datsyuk might return to the NHL for 2020-21, that is now gone. Datsyuk signed a one-year deal with Yekaterinburg Automobilist (or Ekaterinburg Avtomobilist) keeping the former Red Wings star in the KHL.

Considering that Datsyuk will turn 42 on July 20, we may have seen the last of him in the NHL.

For one thing, playing close to home appeals to the veteran forward. It’s also possible to wonder how many NHL teams would be interested in the 42-year-old. Datsyuk’s already four seasons removed from the NHL (spending three with St. Petersburg SKA, and this past with Automobilist).

After putting up some pretty strong offensive numbers from 2016-17 to 2018-19 with SKA, Datsyuk’s numbers dipped this past season. He scored five goals and 22 points in 43 KHL games, although he managed four points in as many playoff contests.

Then again, most hockey fans attest that scoring numbers only tell part of what made Datsyuk a “magic man.”

It’s difficult to find “fancy stats” for the KHL, so it’s difficult to tell if Datsyuk remains a two-way standout. (It certainly would be difficult for anyone — even Datsyuk — to approach his peak-level work at an advanced age.)

But, frankly, it would have been a delight to see Datsyuk put together an NHL farewell tour. Even a diminished Datsyuk. Consider how fun it was to see Ilya Kovalchuk score some big-time goals during his redemptive run with the Canadiens.

That said, it’s easy to see why Datsyuk decided to stay in the KHL. Even if he was holding out hope for an NHL return, who knows if the league will be able to hold a 2020-21 season (in December, or otherwise)?

Datsyuk staying in KHL, not returning to NHL, is coherent part of a strange summer

It’s already been an odd summer of sorts for Datsyuk. M Live’s Ansar Khan points out that Datsyuk’s agent Dan Milstein shot down rumors about Datsyuk being … “holed up” at a monastery that had been seized by “Father Sergei,” a priest pushing a COVID-19 conspiracy?

Milstein tweeted this:

After these rumors circulated:

It all seems strange, either way. But then again, so is 2020.

Datsyuk not returning to the NHL? That’s not nearly as odd — quite understandable, actually — but it’s still a bit of a bummer.

How about a fun exercise to fill your time? If he returned to the NHL, but not with the rebuilding Red Wings, where would he make sense? (Even parsing through hypotheticals doesn’t keep this from being a bummer, though.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.