DETROIT >> The players in the Detroit Red Wings locker room at the time did everything to try and convince Nicklas Lidstrom to stick around for one more season.
It didn’t work.
Now they’ll turn their attention on Pavel Datsyuk.
“Let’s hope it’s not,” Niklas Kronwall said when asked if Thursday was the last time he’d play with Datsyuk in Detroit. “I just hope it’s not. Right now it’s a completely empty feeling. Let’s just hope for everyone’s sake, for the hockey fan and for us and for Detroit, that it’s not.
“I think everybody is going to try to do whatever they can (to convince him to stay),” Kronwall added. “Obviously we’ve got a chance to play with him for a long time and we’d love for that to continue.”
Datsyuk made headlines prior to the start of the playoffs when he said he was not returning to Detroit to fulfill the final year on his contract.
A day later he said he hadn’t officially made a decision on what he’d do next season and he confirmed that after the Wings were knocked out of the playoffs for a second straight year by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I’m not thinking about two days or how many days (until I decide),” Datsyuk said after the Wings lost Game 5, 1-0 to the Lightning, on Thursday. “I need a little bit (to) cool down and (let) emotions get out and then I start thinking about it more.”
The decision to leave, which he has thought about since lockout shortened 2012 season, would be so he can spend more time with his 13-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, who lives in Russia with his ex-wife, Svetlana.
“Don’t (ask) me a scary question,” Datsyuk said when asked if Game 5 was his final game with the Wings. “I put this question out many times and I don’t start thinking this way. It’s not happy thinking about these questions.”
If Datsyuk, who turns 38 on July 20, does decide not to fulfill the final year of his deal the Wings won’t get any relief for his $7.5 million salary, unless they’re able to unload his contract to a team that needs to reach the salary-cap floor.
“I have to find out about Pavel Datsyuk, that’s going to be priority number one,” Wings general manager Ken Holland said during a phone interview with The Macomb Daily on Saturday. “If he’s coming back then I know we have Pav and if he’s not coming back obviously I have to go through the process of his cap space.”
Datsyuk was held without a point in the five games with Tampa Bay, but did lead the Wings with 18 shots on goal. It was just the second time in his 14 seasons that he was held without a point in the playoffs. The other time was in 2003 when Anaheim swept the Wings.
“I’ve read all the articles,” Holland said. “I’ve had conversations in the past with Pav, but I have to sit down with him here in the next … I don’t think we really need to know until the first of June. He’s probably got a good month to make a final decision.”
Datsyuk, who was drafted in the sixth round (171st overall) in 1998, had 16 goals and 33 assists in 66 games during the regular season.
“I think you know Pavel well enough to know that Pavel will do what Pavel wants to do,” Wing coach Jeff Blashill said. “I’ll sit down and talk with Pav at the end of the year and obviously he’ll meet with Kenny and we’ll see what he decides.”
Datsyuk won the Selke Trophy three years in a row (2008-10) and helped the Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2002 as a rookie and in 2008.
“Pavel is one of the best competitors what will ever be in this league and he was amazing to coach this year, so I hope I get a chance to coach him again next year,” Blashill said. “His work ethic is unreal. He was coming back from injury, if you saw the effort that he put in it’s not secret why he’s been one of the best players in the league. Obviously I hope I get a chance to coach him again.”