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Frans Nielsen signing 'important' for Red Wings

Coach Jeff Blashill says veteran center can help fill void created by Pavel Datsyuk's departure @NHL

The Detroit Red Wings are counting on former New York Islanders center Frans Nielsen to help replace Pavel Datsyuk in the middle of the ice.

"Frans Nielsen was somebody that we thought was real important, losing Pavel, to get a real quality centerman," coach Jeff Blashill told the Red Wings website Friday at Detroit's development camp scrimmage. "He's somebody that when I talk to the opposing coaches that [the Islanders] played against in the playoffs, they thought he did a great job against them. So that was, I thought, important."

Nielsen, 32, agreed to a six-year, $31.5 million contract with the Red Wings on July 1. He has 119 goals and 230 assists in 606 NHL games, all with the Islanders, who selected him in the third round (No. 87) of the 2002 NHL Draft.

Video: Frans Nielsen on why he signed with the Red Wings

Datsyuk signed with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinental Hockey League on Friday, nearly three weeks after announcing he was not going to play in the NHL this season.

Blashill is hopeful left wing Thomas Vanek, who signed a one-year contract with Detroit on July 1 after being bought out by the Minnesota Wild, can provide some offense.

"I've known him since he was in the [United States Hockey League] and watched him in college and know guys who have coached him. He's got a lot of talent, he's a big body that can score goals, he's a right (hand) shot," Blashill said. "So there could be a real good fit there."

Vanek, 32, had 18 goals and 23 assists last season for the Wild.

Datsyuk, who had 314 goals and 604 assists in 953 games during his 14 seasons with Detroit, announced June 18 that he would be returning to Russia. On June 24, the Red Wings traded Datsyuk, who had one season left on a three-year contract that carried a $7.5 million salary-cap charge, and the No. 16 pick in the 2016 draft to the Arizona Coyotes for a first-round pick (No. 20), a second-round choice (No. 53) and forward Joe Vitale.

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