On Jan. 23, reports surfaced that 40-year-old Pavel Datsyuk could be eyeing a return to the NHL for the 2019-20 season.
The Russian forward has spent the last three seasons with St. Petersburg in the KHL. He has never hit point-per-game status there, but he has had a string of impressive seasons and has been classic Datsyuk. He admittedly is slowing down due to age, but he is still a formidable player.
Datsyuk’s agent, Dan Milstein, told Russia’s MatchTV that his client has not closed the door on returning to North America.
“Three years ago, Datsyuk left Detroit on his own,” Milstein said, via Google Transate. “The same desire can bring him back.”
Despite his age, Datsyuk would be of interest to plenty of contending teams in the NHL. A clear option, although they are not near Stanley Cup status, is the Detroit Red Wings, too. Datsyuk spent his entire 14-year NHL career so far with Detroit, accumulating 918 points in 953 games. He was most known for his silky hands and incredible two-way play, so he would automatically be a favorable middle-six center for any coach.
Of all the teams that would make sense for Datsyuk, though, none more so do than the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016 and 2017 and are still in contention despite being dethroned by the Washington Capitals in 2018. The Penguins are currently 26-16-6 and sit in the second wild card spot in the East. For a team that has won a Cup as recently as Pittsburgh, however, knows when the real season begins.
Another thing that could be enticing for both the Penguins and Datsyuk is that the team likely has an open third-line center spot for next season. The franchise has soured on Derrick Brassard since acquiring him last spring, and it looks like he will moved at the deadline or the draft.
Bringing in Datsyuk would undoubtedly give the Penguins the best center core in the league. Him, plus Crosby and Malkin alone is good enough for that regard, and that does not even include Riley Sheehan or whoever they have on the fourth line.
Datsyuk, coming back to the NHL, probably would not require a large salary either. His average annual value would not eclipse $4 million at the most.
Datsyuk left a lot behind to go back home to Russia, but he has the opportunity to re-hash lost time if he comes back. It would be an absolute treat for the league and its fans if Datsyuk decided to come back, whether that be in a Red Wings sweater, a Penguins sweater, or another sweater.