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.

Blackhawks’ Boris Katchouk sidelined by ankle sprain

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CHICAGO — Blackhawks forward Boris Katchouk will be sidelined for four to six weeks with a left ankle sprain, the team announced.

The 24-year-old Katchouk played almost 12 minutes during a 3-0 preseason loss to Detroit on Saturday night. He was acquired in a multiplayer trade with Tampa Bay in March.

The Blackhawks open the season on Oct. 12 at Colorado.

The team also said forward Jujhar Khaira is day to day with a right ankle injury.

Ducks’ Urho Vaakanainen crashes into boards, leaves on stretcher

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Ducks defenseman Urho Vaakanainen was taken off the Honda Center ice on a stretcher after he crashed into the end boards in the first period of Anaheim’s preseason game against the San Jose Sharks.

The Finnish defenseman was conscious and alert with full movement in his extremities at UCI Medical Center, the Ducks said.

The frightening incident occurred midway through the opening period when Vaakanainen smashed into the boards at a dangerous speed behind the Sharks’ net. Vaakanainen appeared to be concentrating on the pass he had just made to Derek Grant, who scored the Ducks’ opening goal on the assist.

Vaakanainen’s teammates came onto the ice and gathered around him as he was taken away on the stretcher.

The Ducks acquired the 23-year-old Vaakanainen from Boston last March in the deal that sent longtime Ducks defenseman Hampus Lindholm to the Bruins. After recording two assists in 14 games for the Ducks last season, Vaakanainen is attempting to win a top-six role on Anaheim’s defense this fall.

Lightning donate $2 million to Hurricane Ian relief efforts

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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning and team owner Jeff Vinik are donating $2 million toward Hurricane Ian relief efforts.

The NHL team announced that $1 million each will be donated by the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation and the Vinik Family Foundation.

“This is a tragic situation for many families and communities across the state of Florida, but especially so in the southwest region of the state,” Vinik said in a statement released by the team. “In times like these the most important thing we can do is support one another, and we hope this donation will help families recover and rebuild in the months to come.”

Ian made landfall Wednesday on Florida’s Gulf Coast, south of the Tampa Bay area. The Lightning postponed two home preseason games and moved the club’s training camp to Nashville, Tennessee, during the storm.

Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

“Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.