WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Pavel Datsyuk delivered the final announcement the Red Wings dreaded — but expected.
And it could be a factor in Steven Stamkos' contract saga.
Datsyuk — one of the NHL's best forwards, nicknamed "Magic Man" for his skill with the puck — said Saturday that he is leaving Detroit with a year left on his deal to return to his native Russia and play in the KHL.
"My family and I are grateful for our time here in Detroit," Datsyuk, 37, said at a news conference. "This was not an easy decision, but it is time for us to return home."
Toward the end of this past season, Datsyuk told the Detroit Free Press he would leave when it was over to return to Russia to be with his teenage daughter from his first marriage and finish his career playing in front of Russian fans. After later waffling, he said Saturday that his final decision came when he was on a recent vacation with his family.
His decision leaves the Red Wings with a headache: How to shed his contract's $7.5 million salary cap hit for next season so the money can be used to pursue a top free agent this summer? Detroit has been rumored to be very interested in making a push for Stamkos if the Lightning center goes to free agency July 1.
"We're in a tough spot," general manager Ken Holland said.
Datsyuk played his whole NHL career with Detroit. Drafted in 1998, he helped it win the Stanley Cup as a rookie in 2002 and again in 2008. In the latter year, he won the first of three straight Selke Trophies as the league's top defensive forward.