Pavel Datsyuk

Pavel Datsyuk isn’t coming back to NHL after all

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A few weeks ago, there were rumblings about Pavel Datsyuk potentially coming back to the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings. On Wednesday, those rumors were officially put to bed.

After spending the last three years with the KHL’s St. Petersburg SKA, the 40-year-old has signed with his hometown team, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. Datsyuk’s new contract is for one year.

Although it would’ve been cool to see Datsyuk back in the NHL with the Red Wings, it’s easy to understand why he’d want to suit up for his hometown team, again, before the end of his professional career. And according to agent Dan Milstein, Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg and the Red Wings were the only two teams he considered signing with this off-season.

The last time Datsyuk played in the NHL, he put up 16 goals and 49 points in 66 contests back in 2015-16. He’s coming off a season in which he scored 12 goals and 42 points in 54 KHL contests, so we know he’s still capable of playing at a high level.

But is this it for him in the NHL? Will we revisit a potential return to the Red Wings at this time next year?

We can always dream.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Datsyuk leaves KHL team; Red Wings return possible?

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When Pavel Datsyuk left the NHL for the KHL after the 2015-16 season, it felt like he was putting an end to his playing career in North America.

Not so fast!

On Tuesday, Datsyuk announced via social media that his days with SKA St. Petersburg have come to an end.

“The St. Petersburg stage of my career has come to an end. These were the memorable years,” Datsyuk wrote (quotes have been translated from Russian to English). “I want to say thank you to the SKA club. In St. Petersburg, there are wonderful conditions for games and training, attentive staff – all this helps to concentrate exclusively on hockey.”

Earlier this year, Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, told a Russian media outlet that his client wasn’t ready to retire. And after Datsyuk made his announcement on Tuesday night, Sportsnet’s Ellliotte Friedman reported that Ken Holland had talked about the possibility of bringing the veteran back into the fold.

The Russian forward is expected to be back in Michigan in the next little while.

Holland, of course, is no longer the general manager in Detroit, but he remains in the organization. Steve Yzerman will now be the one to decide whether or not bringing Datsyuk back makes sense for this young Red Wings team.

Even though he doesn’t appear to be the most vocal guy in the locker room, the 40-year-old’s experience could help turn this Detroit franchise around. And let’s not forget that he showed he can still play. The veteran posted 12 goals and 42 points in 54 KHL games last season.

During his last NHL season, Datsyuk had a respectable 16 goals and 49 points in 66 games with the Red Wings. At this point of his career, the Wings don’t need him to be the go-to guy anyway. He just needs to help them with their transition from being a rebuilding team to a competitive one.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Datsyuk: Olympic gold medal means more than Stanley Cup

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Seconds after the Russians won their first Olympic hockey gold medal since 1992, Pavel Datsyuk couldn’t contain his joy at what he considers the peak of his career.

Even though Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008, the 39-year-old said capturing gold at the Olympics in his fifth try was his greatest accomplishment, even in a tournament without NHL players and even when called “Team Olympic Athlete From Russia” because of sanctions over state-sponsored doping.

“When you play for your country and I win this medal, this special time, it’s more important,” Datsyuk said. “I have accomplished my dream. Now I have no dream.”

Datsyuk, who took home a bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, had six assists to help the Russians capture Pyeongchang gold as captain and one of their best players.

“There are a lot of nice feelings now in my heart, but at the same time I can’t believe it yet.”

Datsyuk went home to Russia in the summer of 2016 citing family reasons after putting up 314 goals and 604 assists for 918 points in 953 regular-season games over 14 seasons with the Red Wings. Datsyuk, who was the oldest men’s hockey player in the Olympics, still hasn’t decided whether to retire after this season.

He accomplished his dream with the help of Ilya Kovalchuk, who went back to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League despite being just three seasons into a $100 million, 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk had five goals and two assists and was voted tournament MVP.

Kovalchuk and Nikita Gusev, who led Russia and the tournament with 12 points including two goals in the gold-medal game, were great. Datsyuk was Russia’s captain and leader.

“Our hearts almost stopped beating,” Datsyuk said of the back-and-forth final, “but we recovered and the team showed character.”

Zetterberg: Babcock leaving Detroit was best for both sides

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Henrik Zetterberg doesn’t exactly sound heartbroken about Mike Babcock’s departure from the Detroit Red Wings’ bench.

Perhaps that boils down to hearing the sound of Babcock’s voice for a decade.

“There’s a lot of guys in here who’ve been through the same stuff for many years,” Zetterberg told MLive.com on Thursday. “I think now with the additions of Green and Richards, and the new coach, it’s given us a little fresh start. Obviously, it’s going to be a different voice behind the bench and sometimes you need that.”

Jeff Blashill replacing Babcock as head coach isn’t the only thing that excites Detroit’s verstaile captain.

The 34-year-old also praised Mike Green as “the kind of defenseman we didn’t have” and seems happy about gaining another veteran voice in Brad Richards.

Considering the Red Wings’ recent – relative – struggles (especially two straight first-round exits and just one series win since 2011-12), one might also do the math about Zetterberg’s advancing age and what may appear to be diminishing returns.

Of course, with Pavel Datsyuk possibly out for a big chunk of the regular season and Babcock gone, many will shine the spotlight of blame on Zetterberg if the slightly-new-look Red Wings sputter early on.

Crosby, Toews, Weber, Price lead pack in NHL 16’s ratings

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After unveiling the top 10 goaltenders for the upcoming video game NHL 16, EA Sports has done the same for every other position.

As was the case last season, Sidney Crosby has the highest overall rating at 96, but there are some alterations after that. In 2015, Steven Stamkos ranked second overall with a 93 rating and he kept that rating for 2015-16, but he’s been leapfrogged by Jonathan Toews (94), Shea Weber (94), and Carey Price (94).

Pavel Datsyuk (93) and John Tavares (92) round out the top-five among centers. Both Detroit and Pittsburgh have two players in the top-10 with Henrik Zetterberg (92) and Evgeni Malkin (92) securing eighth and sixth place respectively.

As previously established, Weber leads the pack among defensemen and is followed by Duncan Keith (93), Drew Doughty (93), Ryan Suter (93), and Erik Karlsson (91). Nashville is the only team with two defensemen in the top-10 as Roman Josi (90) ranks ninth.

When it comes to right wingers, Corey Perry (92) got the top position, although he’s closely followed by Patrick Kane (92). Vladimir Tarasenko (91), Jakub Voracek (90), and Marian Hossa (90) make up the remainder of the top-five. Phil Kessel, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh over the summer, saw his rating slip from 90 in 2014-15 to 89 following a rough campaign with the Maple Leafs.

When it comes to left wingers, it won’t surprise many to learn that Alex Ovechkin secured the top rating at 93. He’s followed by Jamie Benn (92), Taylor Hall (90), Zach Parise (90), and Max Pacioretty (89). The Dallas Stars’ acquisition of Patrick Sharp means that they now have two players in the top-10 as Sharp took the final place on that list with his 89 rating.

NHL 16 will be out on Sept. 15 in North America and Sept. 17 in Europe. If you want to see each position’s top-10 list, you can view them here.