Datsyuk leaves, Mrazek stays in Detroit
After three-time Selke Trophy winner Pavel Datsyuk officially decided to return to Russia, Detroit fans needed a little ray of offseason optimism.
That lift finally came yesterday, as the Red Wings and Petr Mrazek agreed on a new two-year contract. General manager Ken Holland and the goaltender’s agent worked out the details over a two-hour breakfast meeting, narrowly avoiding an arbitration hearing.
Both sides can now focus on an upcoming campaign that carries considerable intrigue. The group that fell to Tampa Bay in the 2016 Eastern Conference semifinals promises to look quite different this fall, primarily because of Datsyuk’s absence. The two-way marvel revealed on June 18 that he would latch on with a KHL squad in order to be closer to his teenage daughter.
Datsyuk had entertained said idea for an extended period of time. Nonetheless, the reality of his departure probably won’t hit Hockeytown until that Oct. 13 opener vs. Jon Cooper’s bunch. The center totaled 918 points (314 goals, 604 assists) in 953 regular-season contests. He frequently reached another level in the playoffs, too, tallying 113 points in 157 such games. Datsyuk captured multiple Stanley Cups, of course, in addition to snaring the Lady Byng award on four occasions.
An ankle injury caused a bit of a dip in the perennial Olympian’s production last winter, but Datsyuk still ranked second on the team with 33 helpers. His farewell to the NHL means extra offensive pressure on veteran Henrik Zetterberg and rising star Dylan Larkin. The hardest part about replacing No. 13, however, probably boils down to pinpointing somebody with half as much own-zone acumen.
That’s also why it was imperative to keep Mrazek happy. Holland and head coach Jeff Blashill undoubtedly recognize that no single skater will replicate Datsyuk on the forecheck, for instance. Rather, the organization requires balance in all areas. Irrespective of his struggles in April, Mrazek provides stability – and major upside – on the back end.
While Jimmy Howard remains on the roster, the Red Wings aren’t paying Mrazek $8 million to sit on the bench. In 94 career outings, the Czech native holds a 46-30-8 record with a 2.29 GAA. Arguably more impressive: that .920 save percentage, which should come in handy as the Atlantic Division stalwarts tweak blue-line pairings.
Holland’s iffy cap situation precluded him from exploring many options in free agency, and yet Detroit continues to command loads of respect from handicappers. Online sports book Bovada.lv gives Blashill’s crew odds of +1200 to take the East. Among Atlantic rivals, only the Lightning receive greater adoration at present. That’s simply how business at unfolds at Joe Louis Arena, even though the beloved personnel must inevitably change.