BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Detroit Red Wings gained salary-cap relief by trading veteran star Pavel Datsyuk's contract to the Arizona Coyotes on Friday night at the NHL draft.
The 37-year-old Datsyuk said last week that he will return home to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League next season. He has a year remaining on his contract and will count $7.5 million against Arizona's salary cap.
The Coyotes obtained the No. 16 pick, used to select defenseman Jakob Chychrun, with Datsyuk in exchange for the No. 20 pick, a second-round pick (No. 53 overall) and forward Joseph Vitale. Detroit selected defenseman Dennis Cholowski at No. 20.
The Red Wings are now better positioned to upgrade their roster in free agency, which opens July 1.
''We have the flexibility now to do what we want,'' Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said.
Holland said the Coyotes initiated trade discussions after the No. 13 selection was made.
''It was a unique situation for us,'' Holland said. ''We were prepared to move back, we get an extra second-round pick, we don't have to pay (Datsyuk) and we get Joe Vitale's contract.''
Datsyuk had 16 goals and 33 assists in 66 games last season. He has 314 goals and 605 assists in 953 regular-season games, and 42 goals and 71 assists in 157 postseason games.
The 30-year-old Vital has played six NHL seasons with the Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins. He appeared in just one game last season due to a concussion.