Wednesday, September 07, 2005

More on Pavel

Well, another young Russian Red Wing has taken the money and run. First it was Bykov, now it's Pavel. I suppose I can't really blame him for taking $6 million (that's the unconfirmed number) when he had the chance but it still is hard to swallow this as a fan. I guess it was a mistake to throw around all that rhetoric about his being the "future of the franchise," "one of the top young stars in the league," "one of the most electrifying players in hockey," etc. While all that was true to a large extent, it apparently got to his head. The age of Steve Yzerman and selfless superstars is over, over, over. It was before the cap and is just even more so with a cap. The Detroit News reports that the contract has no out-clause so the Wings will be without Datsyuk's services for at least a season. I'll go further than that. I can't really see Pavel ever coming back to the Wings, not after setting a pay precedent for himself like that. I'm sure he'll perform at a high level in Russia and that will only serve to keep his market value so high, if not drive it higher. I have no doubt a number of GMs in the NHL would have happily paid him $6 million a year. I don't blame Holland for not getting Pavel signed. If $6 million was what Pavel wanted, there's nothing Kenny could have done. The Wings already have one highly paid super star in Nick Lidstrom (for a year, anyway) and there really is not room under a $39 million cap to pay two players $6+ million if you want to have a balanced roster (unless you're Tampa Bay). When you compare the relative contributions of Lidstrom and Datsyuk, Nick easily comes out on top and therefore would command the most money as well as attention in negotiations from the Wings. So unless Lidstrom leaves next summer and/or Pavel takes a big "humble pill," I would not expect Datsyuk back in the Winged Wheel. I almost wish the Wings didn't draft so well because it's hard to stay excited about prospects when things like this happen. If you collect too many good young players, you're just going to lose them to teams that have much more cap space because they don't have the same young talent you have. I guess the Wings can rely on other teams' youth or aged rent-a-players (not a new concept in Detroit) while performing as a prospect farm for the other 29 NHL teams. How encouraging. As I said earlier, I was not surprised at all that Pavel decided to stay in Russia but I was surprised about where he signed. I totally expected him to sign with Moscow and when reports said he'd signed with Omsk instead, I was a little doubtful. However, as a reader pointed out, Dynamo's offer of $3.3 million could not compete with Avangard's offer. Given that, it's no surprise Pavel went to play in Siberia. I'm obviously very sorry to see Pavel go, even more so because of the hopes we Wings fans had resting on him. I'll certainly miss watching him with the puck. I think the biggest shame is Pavel's newly inflated image of himself, after just one good season. He has not yet demonstrated an ability to put up those numbers consistently and has done very little in the playoffs. He's being paid on potential now and even though he's already 27, I think he was a couple good seasons away from being able to demand that kind of money. I'm glad the Wings are confident of their ability to contend for the Cup this year, even without Pavel. Maybe they're on to something. After all, they still have some big names on the roster. If they get Zetterberg signed, I'll buy in to their optimism a lot more. There is some good news, though: Steve Yzerman says his knee feels better than it has in two years. UPDATE (8. Sep): This whole situation is getting ridiculous. Is it too much to ask for some kind of concrete answer?! Matt Schwartz of our sister-site/affiliate has some more news on the whole Pavel Datsyuk Saga and has some reasons for us to hope. The most important stuff is in these paragraphs:
What has been reported is the financial figure: $3.5 million USD, tax-free. That's a far cry from the rumored $6 million from earlier this week. Booth Newspapers reported this week that the Red Wings' highest offer averaged $3.8 million per season, but likely as a four- or five-year deal. Another development is that Datsyuk's agent, Gary Greenstin, told the Russian media that Wings GM Ken Holland has agreed to offer Datsyuk a two-year contract, something he was loathe to do previously because it would make the talented center an unrestricted free agent following the 2006-07 NHL season.
So, the Wings could pay Pavel more than he'd make in Russia (even with taxes) and could have him for two years. Sure, we'd like to have him around longer but that's still a heck of a lot better than not having him at all. Also, Schwartz reports that, according to Soviet Sport, Pavel's contract "
was never officially filed with the PHL, Russia's professional hockey governing body. That would also partly explain why Datsyuk has not dressed yet for Avangard or Dynamo, despite the RSL regular season kicking off on Monday, and would leave him free to sign with the Red Wings." I'm glad to be ripped out of my depressive pessimism by such reports but all this back-and-forth action is getting real old. I'd like to know the answer to this basic question: could Pavel Datsyuk play for the Wings, if finances allow? (i.e. can he leave Russia or not?)


At 9/07/2005 12:28:00 PM, Blogger d-lee said...

I'm just not getting it. You say that there are a lot of GMs who would be happy to pay Datsyuk $6M, but I really don't think so. He has had ONE season in which he scored exactly 30 goals. That doesn't place him among the elite of the elite. Even in the old sky's the limit NHL, I don't think he would be able to get that kind of a salary. Not until he proves himself a little more. The money (although perhaps not clean money) is there for the taking in Russia, so that's good for him. And I'll agree with you that as long as the money is there, he's not going to come back to the NHL.

At 9/07/2005 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

Pavel had 69 points with an expanded role on a very deep team. Not as the centerpiece star but as one of many stars. He had a significant increase in ice time with the departure of Sergei Fedorov but didn't get the kind of ice time he would have gotten in some other cities in the league. You can look at his having played with stars two ways: first, he got a lot of help. Second, he was held back by not getting the ice time he would have gotten on a lesser team.

The first view has a whole lot of validity but I don't think that lessens Pavel's value. The help Pavel got wasn't so much in contributing to his productionn directly but in contributing to his growth as a player. Guys like Igor Larionov and Steve Yzerman helped Pavel develop as a player instead of inflating his stats. Pavel's time in Detroit was spent learning from the veterans off the ice and in practice and then turning it in to production for them.

On a team with so many stars, the ice time has to be more evenly spread out to keep everyone happy. So instead of playing bigtime minutes, Pavel had to give up some ice time to his teammates. I think that if Pavel were the centerpiece of an organization, he would flourish. We saw a glimpse of that when he became the Wings unnamed #1 center in 2003-2004. Sure, that was his only good year statistically but just about everyone agrees that he showed a lot of potential in the other two years he played. That 69 point season was not a maximum output by Pavel. I think it was a start.

All this doesn't mean he's worth $6 million to a team that has the depth to do without him but I think he might be worth it to a team that doesn't. Maybe not now but after he's spent a year in Russia, I think his stock will go up.

At 9/07/2005 04:53:00 PM, Blogger Brian List said...

I'd agree with Matt that a team that has a full roster and cap space to pay Pavs $6M would do it. I think the Pens and Coyotes could do it.

At 9/08/2005 04:27:00 PM, Blogger Tom L said...

$3.5USD million tax-free, is equivalent to about $5.5 million before 36% in income taxes. Add in state and local taxes and the $6 million number becomes very reasonable.

If anything, this is shedding light on the ruinous tax structure in the U.S. as much as any salary cap restraints.


At 9/08/2005 05:27:00 PM, Anonymous Gabriel P. said...

Matt, having witnessed similar back and forth reports in the days preceding Bettman's cancellation of the season, I'm reluctant to be lifted from my pessimism by these stories.

I was pretty concerned about the whole deal before I realized that if we're really counting on this one player just make the playoffs, we have a far bigger problem than just Datsyuk.

Here's one thing I don't get though: I read recently that the average monthly income in Russia is around $500. Not sure if that's true, but assuming it is, how can that type of economy support a league that employs $3.5M players?

At 9/08/2005 05:34:00 PM, Blogger Matt Saler said...

I agree, Gabriel. Believe me, my optimism is very short lasting and is soon replaced by pessimism.

You're right, it does seem ridiculous for us to be placing our hopes of even making the playoffs on Pavel. The situation is probably not that dire but you have to admit he'd help. I think the Wings' optimism is a little encouraging, though, and maybe we fans shouldn't be so down on our chances.

Oil money over there must only support one or two players like Pavel a team. Not every team has even that capability. I hate to think what that does to team chemistry, though. Talk about stratification.


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