Two hours after Pavel Datsyuk held a press conference during a break in his hockey camp to announce his retirement from NHL hockey, Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland took to the podium to give his side. During the presser, we got a lot of information we already either outright knew or expected, but overall it was a case of Holland getting up to do his duty as a GM and try to set himself up for continuing to do his job of dealing with the mess that Datsyuk’s departure makes.
To start, Holland thanked Datsyuk for his service before telling the story of the negotiations leading up to the current contract that Pavel Datsyuk signed when he was still represented by agent Gary Greenstin, making sure to point out that Greenstin wanted a five-year deal and that Holland had talked him down to three, and making it a point to mention that Greenstin had since been replaced by Pavel’s friend and agent Dan Milstein.
Holland also says that he knew last summer about Datsyuk’s desire to return to Russia, but he was able to talk him into playing out the 2015-16 season with the understanding that if Datsyuk wanted to leave after that, the team would deal with it then.
holland: datsyuk wanted to leave after 14-15 season. not overly optimistic he can move contract. will not if lots of talent is cost.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) June 18, 2016
In terms of what else has been reported, the team has apparently known this since February:
Milstein said $2M bonus due in February was contingent on him playing third year. He didn't take it and gave Wings heads up it might happen.— Nick Cotsonika (@cotsonika) June 18, 2016
There are two considerations here:
- This bonus would have had to have been in the contract he signed originally, no? While it doesn’t affect the cap hit regardless of whether Datsyuk had taken the bonus, it strengthens the discussion about Holland willingly signing a three year deal for a player he should have reasonably figured wouldn’t want to play that long.
- If Ken Holland knew in February that Datsyuk was confident enough in his mind being made up to leave that he would pass on a $2M bonus, then was there ever a consideration to trade him before this year’s trade deadline as a rental and pushing off the problem for another team?
In terms of the first consideration, Holland was asked a spoon-fed question about being worried year-to-year deals would have driven Datsyuk to another NHL team and he magnanimously agreed with such a leading question, but you can make of that what you will.
In terms of the second piece, I know it would have been very difficult for the Wings in the position they were in to pull the chute so hard that they would trade Pavel Datsyuk as a rental, and you have to know the value wouldn’t be very high for such a deal because there’s no way Ken Holland could have gotten away with simply trying to trick the buying team into believing he was going to stay, but it would have involved the Wings returning assets and not worrying about this cap hit right now.
In all honesty, it was a strong enough consideration last summer that it feels almost like the fans have been duped here by the consideration of keeping the streak alive as a PR move rather than the GM making the hard decisions necessary to bring his club back into the tier of contenders.
holland: some hardball in situation with datsyuk. wings threatened to block play in khl if he left before last season.— gregg krupa (@greggkrupa) June 18, 2016
I mean, if Holland had to essentially threaten to make Datsyuk miss out on playing hockey anywhere for two years just to get him to come back for one, how much can we claim being blindsided?
In terms of Holland saying he’s not overly optimistic about moving Datsyuk’s contract, he did mention that he has talked to a few teams and he answered a question about the recent Chicago/Carolina trade by confirming that it’s not going to change his own price point.
Mostly what Holland kept reiterating about such a move to gain one year of salary cap relief is that he is not willing to pay a premium, including a high draft pick or a player like Anthony Mantha to do so.
To be honest, most of it sounded like Holland was negotiating this deal via the media. I fully believe that Holland is going to be willing to sit on this cap space if teams like Carolina, Ottawa, or Arizona want to treat the favor of taking on dead cap space as a license to raid Detroit’s pantry. All I want as a fan in that regard is that if a deal doesn’t happen by the second week of July, I’d like some of the media with inside sources to let the fans know what exactly other teams were asking for.
Forcing the Wings to deal with the reality of having to play more kids on value contracts isn’t the worst thing that could happen for Detroit, as it could put a little bit of a hurry on their willingness to commit to modernizing their way of team-building, but all of the indications that came out of Ken Holland’s presser today are that he could be in a better position today by having taken on such a mentality earlier, even if it would have been much more painful in the short term.