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Wings sign Datsyuk to 7-year deal

by Staff Writer / Detroit Red Wings
Datsyuk has been the most-productive Red Wings' player of the last two seasons.
-- With five days left until the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Red Wings signed Russian star Pavel Datysuk to the longest contract extension in franchise history on Friday.

"We feel that Pavel is in the prime of his career," Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. "We feel that Pavel is developing into one of the most exciting and best offensive two-way centerman in the National Hockey League. In the end, we felt very comfortable with a long-term commitment to Pavel." Specific terms of Datsyuk's seven-year contract were not disclosed.

Datsyuk, 28, was set to become an unrestricted free agent in July. Holland said negotiations with the Wings' star center had been going on since training camp last September, but he added that the deal really came together over the last week.

Vice President Steve Yzerman emphasized that in the salary cap era and the new economics of the NHL, it was imperative that Datsyuk be locked up for the long term. The seven-year deal is the longest in Red Wings' history.

"We felt it was extremely important to lock this player up for as long as we can," Yzerman said.

Datsyuk has been the Red Wings' most productive player over the last two seasons. He led the Wings in scoring in 2005-06 with 28 goals and 59 assists for 87 points and is currently leading the team in points, collecting 27 goals and 60 assists for 87 points through 78 games this season.

"Everyone in the organization wanted him to stay with us," said team owner Mike Ilitch.

Datsyuk has struggled to notch points in the postseason, registering just 15 points in 42 games played. In last season's first-round loss to the Edmonton Oilers, Datsyuk returned from injury early to help his teammates.

"I don't think performance has been an issue," Yzerman said. "His (playoff) statistics aren't spectacular, but it hasn't been from a lack of effort. I've got to play with Pavel throughout his career. I've been able to observe him in practice and in games. I think I know him as a player as well as anyone. I see the playoff statistics as an aberration."

Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup with the Red Wings during his rookie season in 2001-02. He enjoyed a breakout campaign in his third season, scoring a career-high 30 goals and being named to the NHL All-Star team. Last season, Datsyuk won the Lady Byng Trophy and represented Russia in the 2006 Winter Olympics.

"This contract was extremely important to me," Datsyuk said. "Especially since I have been a Red Wing since 2001."
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