Friday, September 03, 2004

Wings, Datsyuk "Miles Apart"

With the CBA expiring on September 15, the Wings still haven't signed team MVP Pavel Datsyuk, and word is that the sides are still "miles apart" after GM Ken Holland reportedly made a "huge offer." We've heard this kind of rhetoric all summer long about the Wings' contract negotiations with Pavel Datsyuk, but it's still troubling that there is seemingly no progress. Datsyuk had a breakout season of 30 goals and 38 assists last season, making the Western Conference All Star Team and shocking the league with his famous Turco breakaway goal. In mid-July, Pavel, 26, waved his right to arbitration as a restricted free agent, hopeful that further negotiations would lead to a deal. His agent, Gary Greenstein, explains:
"I explained to him how arbitration works. He doesn't want to go through the process. He believes he'll get a good deal because he's proven everything to the Detroit Red Wings organization. We have to make a deal by Sept. 16."

I almost would've preferred that Datsyuk had filed for arbitration, as the salary rewarded for a young player like Pavel with a breakout season wouldn't be much relative to the average NHL salary. But what does Holland mean by "huge offer?" With fiscal responsibility running rampant in the league, it's likely that Holland is just being cautious with throwing Illitch's money around. I imagine "huge" is in the ballpark of 3 years, $2.25 million per season.

Datsyuk signed to play for Moscow Dynamo this fall, with an escape clause that allows him to return to Detroit once the NHL season begins. The contract is triggered once the CBA expires. But there is a heap of confusion as to whether Datsyuk will play the whole season in Moscow even if a new CBA is born. Greenstein has said that Datsyuk will play the whole season in Moscow, whether or not a new CBA is hashed out, if he isn't inked with the Wings by September 15 ("We have to make a deal by Sept. 16"). But Datsyuk has given conflicting reports that he could sign with the Wings after September 15 and still come back. Greenstein explains the Dynamo deal:

"It's something to protect Pavel in case there is a lockout. Pavel wants to play hockey somewhere. Dynamo has good coaches, good trainers, it's going to be a very good team."
The way Greenstein says that, it's an insurance policy for next season, not set in stone. Datsyuk earned $1.5 million last season, and is looking for a more-than-significant raise. Holland plans to speak with Greenstein further, but cannot report any progress: "We'll see where it goes." What keeps me hopeful of Pavs donning the Winged-Wheel in years to come is what his agent says of his desire to stay here: "He loves Detroit, he loves playing for the Red Wings, and doesn't want to play anywhere else." He would be deserving of a raise after his success last season. The problem is that he slowed down considerably in the second half of the season, after every NHL player and his brother had seen the Turco goal. Not wanting to be faked out of their own jockstraps, teams started to double-team Pavel, and he just doesn't have the physical strength to beat that, yet. During the Calgary series, I think I saw Datsyuk flat on his back every shift he took. If Pavel wants to become a perennial NHL All Star, he needs to figure out ways of shaking double-teams, because that's just what comes with the territory of being a top tier player.


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