It’s just a technicality, but it kind of feels weird. The Detroit Red Wings traded the contract of Pavel Datsyuk and a 16th overall draft pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Joe Vitale and the 20th and 53rd overall picks at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
The Coyotes selected Jakob Chychrun with their pick, landing the alternate captain of the Sarnia Sting and a capable two-way defenceman.
The Red Wings took defenceman Dennis Cholowski with their pick, which scratches an itch the team has had for some time now. He plays out of Chilliwack in the BCHL and was born in Langley.
A deal like this was always expected, with the Red Wings saddled with the remainder of the Datsyuk contract. The Russian headed home and will play in the Kontinental Hockey League. He left the NHL with a year to go on his contract, which would hit up Detroit for $7.5 million because he signed the deal after he reached the age of 35.
Moving Datsyuk’s monstrous cap hit puts the Red Wings back in the mix for players like Steven Stamkos, who could still be hitting the open market shortly. They’ve ditched the costliest contract on their roster and can now make some serious moves in free agency.
“You’d be dreaming if you think having a $7.5 million cap hit on our cap space has no effect on our ability to do business,” general manager Ken Holland said after Datsyuk made his announcement. “Of course you’re going to be compromised.”
As for the Coyotes, they can afford to absorb a contract of this sort and they’ve done so before. Last June, they took on the contracts of Chris Pronger and Nicklas Grossman from the Flyers in exchange for Sam Gagner and a conditional pick. Obtaining the Datsyuk deal helps them hit the cap floor.
And getting Chychrun out of the deal doesn’t hurt, either. There’s some quality upside to this move for both teams and it should set up some interesting circumstances in the coming weeks.
But maybe the weirdest thing of all is that Datsyuk is technically no longer a Detroit Red Wing. Imagine that.