While the cap hit might not be the most attractive thing in the world at $7.5 million per season, per Ted Kulfan of the Detroit News, Datsyuk is worth every penny of his three-year extension.
As there have been some contracts that have been doled out for much more money than that Datsyuk's deal recently, it should be stated that not only has Datsyuk earned this extension with his play in Detroit, but the Red Wings are actually ensuring that they will continue to dominate the NHL for the next few years.
Here are some reasons why.
Datsyuk immediately burst onto the scene in 2001-02 with some highlight-reel goals while playing with Brett Hull and Boyd Devereaux.
He has led the Red Wings in points in every season since 2003-04 with the exception of 2010-11, when he missed 26 games with injuries, and 2011-12, when he finished two points behind Henrik Zetterberg.
With exceptional creativity and skill to match, Datsyuk dominates teams with dazzling offensive displays.
The great thing about Datsyuk, however, is that he is not a one-dimensional offensive player. That is what makes him so dangerous. Datsyuk is an exceptional passer, with on-ice vision that matches his creativity.
To try and describe the 34-year-old Russian with any other word than unpredictable would be an insult to the many goaltenders he has embarrassed in his NHL career.
The quality that really makes Pavel Datsyuk a great Detroit Red Wing is his two-way game. Datsyuk had three straight Selke Trophies for best defensive forward and quite a few more nominations for the Selke Trophy as well.
This is because of Datsyuk's faceoff abilities, but also his takeaway abilities. John Kreiser of NHL.com wrote in 2012 that "players and coaches will tell you that Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk is still the NHL's top puck thief."
Indeed, Datsyuk had 144 takeaways in 2007-08, which Kreiser also observed was "the most since takeaways became an official stat in 2005." The dynamic two-way center never quits on the backcheck and loves taking the puck away from players to start a Detroit rush the other way.
Datsyuk is always thinking in the defensive zone, meaning he always makes the right play when he is given the opportunity.
This has resulted in Datsyuk having a career plus-minus of plus-229.
Watching Datsyuk come in and win a faceoff to get a clear on a penalty kill or watching him weave his way through traffic to set up a chance on the power play is a one-of-a-kind play in that Datsyuk just makes it look so easy.
To put it in perspective, of Detroit's 34 power-play goals this season, Datsyuk had points on 16 of them and was on the ice for quite a few more.
His ability to dominate in all three areas of the game (offense, defense and special teams) would be enough to sell most teams on his importance going forward.
But that isn't all that Datsyuk brings to the table.
When Datsyuk is in the lineup, the Red Wings are a different team. This is because Datsyuk is a calming influence in all three areas of play.
On offense, Datsyuk has an uncanny ability to penetrate the other team's blue line while holding on to the puck. Once in the zone, no player wants to approach Datsyuk too closely. Datsyuk has moves that will put any player to shame.
On defense, Datsyuk had 31 hits and 30 blocked shots this season, but it was his ability to get the puck out of the zone that helped the Red Wings.
Although Datsyuk was credited with 38 giveaways this season, it was because he was trying to do too much in the offensive zone, not in the defensive zone. When needed, Datsyuk wins a faceoff, gets the puck out of the zone and goes back to the bench on a line change.
When Datsyuk came into the NHL, his ability to speak English was nothing short of nonexistent. Now, with a more comprehensive grasp of the language and the respect of his Red Wings' teammates, Datsyuk has become a mentor to some of the younger players on the team.
He doesn't get mad at his own players, simply discussing things on the bench instead of getting angry. He has truly become a mentor of sorts on this younger Red Wings' team, quietly playing "the right way," always making the easy play in his own end instead of trying to do something fancy.
With a bundle of new Red Wings in Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Gustav Nyquist and others being just around the corner from stardom in the NHL, Datsyuk's extension assures that he will have a hand in their development.
The Red Wings have long depended on veteran leadership to push their team into the playoffs, and the fact that Datsyuk is now a Red Wing for the next four years will only help the team mentor and break in its younger players.
With the Red Wings' AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, having just won the Calder Cup, it is important that Datsyuk continue to be a leader in the locker room.
The Money in Russia
When Detroit and Datsyuk agreed to this contract, Datsyuk turned down all of the money and playing time that came with the KHL stigma.
Per an article by Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated, in the end, Datsyuk (and Malkin) likely wanted to "prove themselves against the best."
Datsyuk had expressed a desire to end his career in the KHL, but Muir goes on to say that the KHL "can throw around money at the country club with the best of ‘em, but it doesn’t buy it any respect...the KHL will always be regarded as Plan B. At best."
As a player who is still on top of his game, Datsyuk does not want to cash in his chips (pardon the pun) too early. He still has a lot to prove and play for in the NHL.
Turning down the money that the KHL would have offered him is a standing, resounding commitment to not only Datsyuk's desire to play for Detroit, but the Red Wings getting a steal and a bargain player back in their lineup for at least the next four years.
While it may be easy to say that Datsyuk will be washed up at 39 years of age at the end of this contract, one need look no further than other superstars and All-Stars who have played or are still playing in the NHL at a high level.
Detroit's Nick Lidstrom comes immediately to mind, followed closely by Jaromir Jagr (41 years old), and Teemu Selanne (42 years old).
Both players could easily retire during this offseason and walk away from the game knowing they had nothing left to prove, but the fact is that both of these players are still playing at an elite level into their 40s.
Pavel Datsyuk may be drawing closer to the end of his career, but that is still more than four years away in the NHL and maybe six or seven years away in the hockey world altogether.
All statistics via CapGeek.com and NHL.com
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