May 31, 2016
Red Wings court troubled Russian Radulov
to fill hole expected when Datsyuk leaves
By KEITH GAVE
The bizarre ending to Pavel Datsyuk’s NHL career is coming soon. Maybe.
A source close to Datsyuk said there remains about a 2 percent chance that he will leave with one season remaining on his three-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. His departure is contingent on agreeing to a contract with a team in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, and despite reports of an imminent deal with SKA Saint Petersburg, there is no deal yet.
Datsyuk is seeking a deal of two to three years at something approaching $4 million a year. The problem: Few teams in the cash-strapped KHL can afford to pay him like that – especially if Datsyuk prefers not to play in Moscow. Two teams there would take him in a heartbeat, the Red Army Club managed by former Wings star Sergei Fedorov, and Dynamo. But both, knowing Datsyuk preference to play elsewhere, have said publicly they won’t bother making an offer.
We should know something definitive on or about June 15, when Datsyuk plans to meet with Wings General Manager Ken Holland and render his final decision. Holland has said recently he expects Datsyuk to leave.
Truth be told, Holland has known for more than a year that this was coming. And all the hand-wringing and the “poor us” posture by the Red Wings in recent months has been a charade. In fact, Holland knew when he signed Datsyuk to this deal worth $22.5 million over three years that the player had no intention of playing in Detroit that long.
Holland gambled that he would eventually be able to persuade Datsyuk play it out. He even recently agreed to extend the deal by another year at $7.5 million – and offered Datsyuk a four-year “adviser” contract for $250,000 per year, the same one former captain Nick Lidstrom is serving out.
The Wings were so certain that Datsyuk was leaving, however, that they did not give him the $2 million payment due the player in February that was contingent on his playing out the contract.
Now Holland has a mess on his hands. Datsyuk’s $7.5 million will go against the salary cap whether or not he plays in Detroit. Holland can fix that by trading Datsyuk and his contract to another NHL club well under the cap – so long as that club also receives a nice chunk of the Wings’ future in a combination of young players and draft picks.
Curiously, Holland has been negotiating with several NHL clubs to do that while saying publicly he had no intention of trading Datsyuk. Holland’s best options are Arizona, New Jersey and Carolina. The smart money keeps saying the Hurricanes are his best option, but it’s hard to
imagine Canes’ owner Peter Karmanos doing the Wings any favors. So expect the price of Datsyuk’s leaving to be awfully high on several levels.
Meantime, Holland is desperately trying to close the gaping hole left by Datsyuk’s departure. Even if it’s means risking one of the best locker-room environments in hockey. The Red Wings are considered the leading contender to bring Russian winger Alexander Radulov back to the NHL.
Often times when you read that name you’ll find “talented but troubled” before it. Radulov has had a checkered career in professional hockey as one of the most polarizing players in the sport. Simply put, he has character issues.
Radulov, who will turn 30 on July 5, was drafted in the first round (15h overall) by the Nashville Predators. He played two seasons with Nashville before breaking his contract to return to Russia in 2008. He returned to the Predators in 2012, played a few games and was suspended for breaking team rules. He returned to Russia.
And now he wants back into the NHL, where two clubs – Washington and Colorado – have had flirtations with him before deciding against his. That Washington doesn’t want him should raise a red flag for other NHL teams. It makes sense that Capitals coach Barry Trotz, who coached Radulov in Nashville, might not want him. But superstar Alexander Ovechkin calls the shots when it comes to a move like that, and it speaks volumes if he doesn’t want Radulov.
But the Wings are talking a multi-year deal in the neighborhood of $6 million a year. Radulov wants three years; the Wings don’t want to go more than two.
Holland was believed to be negotiating with Radulov in New York about a month ago. Radulov had been expected to play for Russia in the World Hockey Championships but pulled out, saying he had an injury. In fact, it turns out he felt he had better things to do, like fly to North America to meet with the Wings.
Stay tuned. It’s going to be wild summer in Hockeytown.
Holland has yet to hire a second assistant coach to fill out Jeff Blashill’s staff. It’s a hugely important position. The Wings are seeking someone with head-coaching NHL experience who can coach the Wings woeful power play.
Blashill could use someone like Rick Bowness, who coached five different NHL clubs over parts of nine seasons. Since June 3, 2013, though, he has been associate coach in Tampa Bay to one of the fine young head coaches in the NHL, Jon Cooper. It was a bold but smart move by a young general manager at the time, Steve Yzerman.
Two recent names that have surfaced: John Torchetti and Todd Richards.
Torchetti has served as an interim head coach for three franchises: Florida, the Los Angeles Kings and, most recently, the Minnesota Wild. He also spent the 2013-14 season as head coach
of Red Army in Moscow. In 1998-99, Torchetti was the general manager of the Detroit Vipers, who had a 50-12-11 record and captured the International Hockey League’s Eastern Conference Championships.
Richards is a former head coach in Minnesota and Columbus, leading the Blue Jackets to their first-ever Stanley Cup playoff victory in 2014. He was fired after going 0-7 to start the 2015-16 season. He also has been an assistant coach in San Jose and Columbus.
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