There’s a possibility that the days of seeing Valeri Nichushkin in a Dallas Stars uniform are over.
Reports are the 2013 first-round draft pick is considering returning home to Russia and playing in the KHL. According to Pro Hockey Talk, CSKA Moscow acquired the rights to the 21-year old winger and Nichushkin is working on a two-year deal with CSKA. Nichushkin’s agent has denied a deal has been reached, but hasn’t ruled out his client going to the KHL. Basically all options remain open.
So why the change of heart to possibly leave Dallas?
The Stars were hoping to work out a deal themselves with Nichushkin, who is a restricted free agent, but nothing ever materialized. The Stars did make a qualifying offer to retain his rights and give him one more year to prove his value. Needless to say, Nichushkin didn’t sign on the dotted line.
And then there’s this: “Big Val” reportedly doesn’t want to play for head coach Lindy Ruff.
It appears more was expected from Nichushkin after a strong rookie year, where he scored 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games while averaging almost 15 minutes of ice time with the Stars. Injuries became an issue the following year, with the winger missing almost all of the 2014-15 season due to hip surgery.
Once he returned, the ice time dropped and Nichushkin struggled to find any consistency. In an interview earlier this year with Russian news outlet Sport-Express, Nichushkin said he didn’t feel Ruff trusted him, or played enough. Other players such as Mattias Janmark and Radek Faksa soon began overtaking him on the depth chart.
It appears that Nichushkin isn’t ruling out playing for the Stars down the road, but it’s unlikely he’ll step back on the ice again in downtown Dallas with Ruff at the helm.
Written by C. James