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Datsyuk to leave NHL after playoffs

Red Wings center says he wants to return home to Russia for family reasons

by NHL.com @NHL / NHL.com

Center Pavel Datsyuk told the Detroit Free Press in a story published Sunday that he will forego the final season of his three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings and return to his native Russia after the Stanley Cup Playoffs because of family reasons.

"I'm thinking I go home after this season," Datsyuk said. "I may not be done with hockey, but -- it is hard to say -- I think I am done playing in NHL."

Datsyuk, 37, has a 13-year-old daughter that lives with his ex-wife in Russia.

"It's not an easy decision," he said. "It did not happen yesterday. I talk with my daughter all the time. I see how she misses me, how she misses my advice. … I want to come back and be closer."

Datsyuk said he wanted to make the announcement now to avoid distractions during the postseason. The Red Wings clinched a playoff berth for the 25th consecutive season Saturday and will play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference First Round, which gives Datsyuk at least two more games at Joe Louis Arena.

Video: DET@FLA: Datsyuk rattles home power-play goal

"Because of the rumors out there I wanted to clear this up now before the playoffs started so I can focus only on giving my best playoff performance," Datsyuk said. "And I wanted the fans to hear it from me, not someone else.

"I feel very bad about it. Looking back, I wish I had done a year-by-year contract, not a three-year contract. I stayed [last year] in respect for [owners Mike and Marian Ilitch]. I don't want to leave team in disaster. But if I have to do over again I would sign a different deal. I didn't realize it at the time."

If he leaves, the Red Wings will still be responsible for the $7.5 million NHL salary-cap charge for 2016-17 because Datsyuk's current contract went into effect after he turned 35.

"He feels extremely bad," Dan Milstein, Datsyuk's agent, told ESPN.com regarding the possible salary cap charge. "He's asked me to basically let the team know that he's willing to do anything. This is extremely personal to him. He would do whatever is necessary to accommodate the Red Wings, to help in any way possible."

Millstein also said that Datsyuk will meet with the Illitches and general manager Ken Holland after the playoffs, and that door is not completely shut on him playing one more season with the Red Wings.

"He has tremendous respect for the Ilitches and their organization," Milstein said. "It's not over until it's over. This chapter is not closed right now."

On June 26 Datsyuk had surgery to repair ruptured tendons in his right ankle. He said there was an infection in his ankle around Labor Day and needed a second surgery that had been known publicly. Datsyuk missed the first 15 games of the 2015-16 season and didn't score until his sixth game back, but finished second on the Red Wings with 49 points. He has 314 goals and 918 points in 953 NHL games, all with the Red Wings. He was part of Stanley Cup championships in 2002 and 2008, and has won the Selke Trophy three times.

Video: BOS@DET: Datsyuk nets 900th point with goal

Datsyuk also joined Hockey Hall of Fame members Steve Yzerman, Gordie Howe and Alex Delvecchio as the only players with 300 goals, 600 assists and 900 points with the Red Wings.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman had reported April 2 there was a "legitimate chance" Datsyuk would sign with a KHL team.

"Pav has a year to go," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told the Detroit News on April 2. "I hear lots of rumors. There were rumors last summer, there were rumors the summer before. There was rumors about Nick Lidstrom for about three years. It's all rumors.

"He's got a year to go on his contract. I'm going to sit down with all our players at the end of the year, one by one, and talk to them all. Obviously, I'll sit down with Pav."

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