Ramblings: Effects of Datsyuk departure, Vatanen re-signs

by Ian Gooding on June 19, 2016

Effects of Datsyuk departure on other Wings, Vatanen re-signs, plus more…

We’d heard the buzz on this even prior to the end of the regular season. But now it’s official: Pavel Datsyuk, also known as the Magic Man, will not be returning to the Detroit Red Wings.

Although Pavs’ 2015-16 points-per-game average (0.73) was the lowest that it has been since his rookie season, Datsyuk was leaned on more heavily for offense than ever for the Wings last season with a 61.76% offensive zone start rate, his highest dating back at least six seasons ago, when he was a three-time Selke Trophy winner. Unfortunately, Datsyuk has to shoulder his share of the blame for the Wings’ five-game exit from the playoffs, since he was held without a point during the series with Tampa Bay.

The imminent challenge for the Wings will be to find a way to move Datsyuk’s cap space before July 1. Easier said than done, since it might cost them a Tomas Jurco or a Teemu Pulkkinen or even an Anthony Mantha if they have big plans for free agency. If the Wings can’t make the necessary upgrades resulting from moving Datsyuk’s cap hit ($7.5 million), they will have a difficult time making the playoffs. At least it will be difficult to think that the Wings will improve on their 23rd-ranked offense (2.55 goals/game) from last season. These are not exactly the freewheeling Wings of old.

How does Datsyuk’s departure affect other Wings? Not a surprise considering his age, but Henrik Zetterberg’s numbers haven’t been trending in the right direction to begin with. With the loss of his partner in crime, Zetterberg’s fantasy value takes even more of a hit. Believe it or not, Z played an entire 82-game season in 2015-16, yet his owners couldn’t take advantage since he could manage only 51 points. Without sometime linemate Datsyuk and on Zetterberg’s current trajectory, 45 points seems like a more realistic expectation, and that’s even assuming he can stay healthy for most of the season.

In other words, many keeper questions on the Forum this summer could probably be answered, ”It’s time to move on from Z.” But that estimate could change again if the Wings sign Steven Stamkos or some other high-level free agent. Even with the urgency of moving Datsyuk’s cap space, or even finding a taker for Jimmy Howard’s contract in the current goaltending market conditions, the Wings are actually considered a contender for Stamkos’ services.

But if the Wings are handcuffed from not being able to move Datsyuk’s salary (and GM Ken Holland didn’t sound optimistic about it), then that means soon-to-be 20-year-old Dylan Larkin could vault into a first-line role. A lot of responsibility for a youngster, but he might not need to as both Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist have played some center. But if Larkin falls victim to the sophomore slump, the Wings could be in big trouble scoring-wise.

Andreas Athanasiou, who spent nearly half of last season with the Wings, could also assume a greater role. Mantha has to seem probable to make the team at this point, while Tyler Bertuzzi could also find his way on the team with a strong training camp. To put it another way, the days of the Wings allowing their prospects to fully ripen in the AHL may be coming to an end.

Enjoy Datsyuk’s top 10 goals… unless you are a Nashville Predators fan, since there seem to be a disproportionate number of goals scored against the likes of Tomas Vokoun and Pekka Rinne in the highlight package below.


Sami Vatanen isn’t going anywhere this offseason. The Ducks re-signed him to a four-year, $19.5 million extension on Saturday. With defensemen – especially puck-moving defensemen – in heavy demand this offseason, it was important for the Ducks to sign their top power-play producer (19 power-play points). Vatanen seems like a strong bet to reach 40 points for the first time in 2016-17.

If the Ducks now turn their attention to signing Hampus Lindholm, could that mean that Cam Fowler (who is signed for another two years) is suddenly is in play, perhaps as early as the draft? There’s also a possibility that Lindholm is unsigned well into the summer while he attempts to secure a long-term deal while the Ducks attempt to counter with a bridge contract.

Don’t discount a possible trade of one of either the unsigned Frederik Andersen or John Gibson, according to Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. With that expansion draft next summer a very real possibility, Andersen could still be dealt even if he is signed beforehand. The Ducks, like the Penguins and a few other teams, have a real decision on their hands as far as how to handle their goaltending situation.

Whichever Ducks goalie is left unprotected (assuming it gets that far) will be of interest to the Las Vegas team. Both goalies are young, and the team’s combined 2.29 goals-against average led the league in 2015-16.

Looking at the situation from a macroeconomic level now, goaltending supply seems to be greater than goaltending demand at the moment. So at what point do teams realize that the market is perhaps flooded and take their chances losing a goaltender to expansion anyway? To assess this properly, teams will have to take an honest look at how much value their goalie has relative to others that could become available.


Here’s an update from my Ramblings from last weekend, when I hypothesized Marc-Andre Fleury being added by the new Las Vegas team. Apparently Fleury would not be forced to be protected during an expansion draft, according to Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

An interesting aspect of the recent deal worked out by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association regarding expansion draft rules is that only players with a full no-movement clause will have to be protected by their team, according to a source.

Fleury’s contract includes a no-movement clause for the purposes of waivers or being assigned to the American Hockey League, but it is limited when it comes to trades. Each year he submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

As a result, he’s not exempt from the expansion process and the Penguins would have to decide between protecting either him or Murray if both remained on the roster through the end of next season. It might ultimately force general manager Jim Rutherford into making up his mind sooner in order to trade one away and get a return on the asset.

Speaking of Fleury, you’ve probably heard the rumor by now that the Flames are interested (the topic thread is only on its fourth page in the Forum). Fleury seems like the perfect fit for the Flames, a team that didn’t have any goaltenders last season (league-worst 3.13 goals-against average).

What might kill any deal, though, is determining an actual value on Fleury. He’s still arguably a top-10 goalie, yet the Penguins are still dealing from a position of weakness in that other teams know that the Pens need to trade him and that there are other teams in the same position as the Pens. That could ultimately undermine his value, which could be problematic if the Pens don’t receive the right offer.


Some other quick hits:

David Backes is not expected to sign with the Blues by July 1, along with Troy Brouwer, Steve Ott, Kyle Brodziak, and Scottie Upshall (NHL.com).

Ilya Bryzgalov wants to return to the NHL. Given the aforementioned goalie market, expect NHL GMs to swipe left on that one.

In case you’re leaning on Jesse Puljujarvi to start on your team right away, he will miss summer development camp after minor knee surgery. He is still expected to attend training camp (NBC Pro Hockey Talk).

A few from the Ottawa Sun:

Eric Staal likely won’t return to the Carolina Hurricanes, despite thought that he would be a rental for the Rangers in the truest sense of the word. Staal scored just 39 points in 83 games (that is not a typo – remember that he played for two teams), so I’m going to be waiting a long, long while before drafting him in single-season leagues. I couldn’t wait to get rid of Staal in one of my leagues, trading him right before my league’s trade deadline for Tomas Hertl.

Nick Bjugstad is rumored to be in play, while teams are listening on Nick Foligno, Dmitry Kulikov, Derek Stepan, and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Not a surprise considering his contract ($6.5 million) and his subpar point total last season (41 points), but the Wild are considering buying out Thomas Vanek. A Vanek buyout could be the kind of break that Jason Zucker or Erik Haula need to become more permanent fixtures in the top 6.


Finally, Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. Hope your kids brought you some nice gifts (mine made me some that I have yet to see!), or that you get to spend some quality time with your dad.

Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.