Pavel Datsyuk could leave the Detroit Red Wings after this season and return to Russia to finish the rest of his hockey career in the Kontinetal Hockey League, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
“It’s hard to say. Never know what’s going to happen,” Datsyuk told reporters.
The 37-year-old is under contract with the Red Wings of the National Hockey League for the 2016-2017 season and will become a free agent in 2017. Since Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, Detroit will be forced to eat the remaining $7.5 million of his contract if the forward would head back to Russia.
"Pavel is very determined to play and show his best game while helping, assisting and motivating his team into the playoffs and another Stanley Cup," Datsyuk's agent, Dan Milstein, said.
"Pavel has one more year left on his NHL contract. We will sit down with Ken Holland at the conclusion of the season for our annual year-end meeting."
Datsyuk was picked with the 171st overall selection by Detroit in the 1998 NFL Draft. The Red Wings great has won the Selke Trophy three times, Lady Byng Trophy four times and the Stanley Cup twice (2002, 2008). He was selected to four NHL All-Star games and won the NHL Plus-Minus Award during the 2008 season.
Prior to making his NHL debut during the 2001-2002 season with Detroit, Datsyuk played in the KHL for Spartak Yekaterinburg (1996-1997), Dynamo Yekaterinburg (1997-1999), Ak Bars Kazan (1999-2001). During the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, Datsyuk played for Dynamo Moscow. As the NHL went into its second lockout in eight years in 2012-2013, the forward signed with CSKA Moscow and logged 36 points in 31 games. Datsyuk returned to the Red Wings once the lockout ended in January of 2013 and tallied 49 points in 47 games.
"I have one more year contract and we have three games left this year," Datsyuk said. "This is more focus for me now.
"I'm not looking at next year."
The Red Wings (40-28-11) currently own a one point lead over the Boston Bruins for the final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division. The only concern for Detroit is their goal differential of -12, while Boston has a +13 differential.
Only time will tell for the Red Wings and the future of Datsyuk.