The Dallas Stars announced via Twitter on Saturday that they have buyout the contract of former first-round pick forward Valeri Nichushkin following his depressing season after having played overseas for the past two years.
When the Dallas Stars signed Valeri Nichushkin to a two-year deal after he finished his second season playing for CSKA Moskva of the KHL in Russia, there were hopes—from both the Stars fanbase and the front office alike—that he’d be a reliable, efficient scoring forward capable of posting 25- to 30-plus points and add depth to the Stars’ offensive group. He had done so in Russia, where he had 24 and 27 point seasons, respectively, and had a successful rookie and 2015-16 season with the Stars.
He had even produced good numbers with Dallas before going to the KHL; he scored 14 goals and 34 points in his rookie season in 2013-14, and he posted nine goals and 29 points in Dallas’ offensive-heavy 2015-16 campaign.
But when he came back from Europe to rejoin the team, things didn’t click the way Stars’ GM Jim Nill had hoped they would. Yes, Nichushkin did mesh well with fellow Russian Alexander Radulov and Anton Khudobin (who was born in now-Khazakstan, formerly the USSR), but it didn’t translate well onto the ice.
Granted, Jim Montgomery and the coaching staff were toying with numerous line combinations and several different players in the bottom six, including but not limited to Joel L’Esperance, Tyler Pitlick, Blake Comeau, Brett Ritchie, Denis Gurianov, and Jason Dickinson.
Mongomery had options, and he viewed the aforementioned names as more reliable picks. Before January 1st, Nichushkin had appeared in 31 out of Dallas’ 40 games this season, in which he had recorded six out of his 10 assists on the year.
The remaining 26 contests he played in fell in the back half of the season; he played in six of 10 during the month of January, eight of 14 during February, and 12 of 15 during March.
Nickushkin finished the season with zero goals in 57 appearances—a very underwhelming result, especially considering his $2.95 million cap hit.
So, Jim Nill bought him out.
Often times when a player with former first-round draft pick potential such as Nichushkin struggles to produce offense, it may be warranted that the “grass is greener” pitch could come into effect. It may be possible with Nichushkin, and time will be the determining factor as to how that plays out. But, as for now, Valeri Nichushkin is no longer a Dallas Star, and his buyout indicates an underlying motive for the Dallas Stars front office moving forward in the near future.
The buyout opened up a couple extra million dollars for Nill to play around with—money that he very well may spend on July 1 when the NHL’s free agency period opens.
And when it does, Nill won’t have to worry about some of the players that were on the roster last season. Brett Ritchie, for example, was not given a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent after only recording six points (four goals, two assists) in 53 appearances. Veteran center Jason Spezza, who had a $7 million cap hit in the final year of his deal, will be parting in separate—but mutual—ways.
As for Marc Methot and Ben Lovejoy, their future with the team remains somewhat unlikely, but still in question. Considering the fact that Dallas has resigned both Roman Polak and Taylor Fedun, and that defenseman Stephen Johns, who missed the entire 2018-19 season due to post-traumatic headaches, looks to be improving both mentally and physically, Nill may not even need to keep either of them, let alone one. The same holds true for Julius Honka, who is expected to not appear in a Dallas Stars uniform again in his career.
Anywho, Nill has a loosened belt come free agency, and it’s quite possible that he is going to use that extra money to sign players to the roster; one of which could most likely be Joe Pavelski.
By all indications, it’s likely to be the case that San Jose Sharks Captain Joe Pavelski is moving on from the West coast and is signing with another team; he’s met with both the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning, over the past week.
After talks with trade deadline acquisition Mats Zuccarello reportedly fell through, Nill appears to have looked elsewhere amongst the free agent pool.
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And Nill knows the time clock on the Stars’ Stanley Cup chances very well may be ticking. With Jamie Benn about to turn 30 in the middle of July, Alexander Radulov about to turn 33, and Ben Bishop at 32, the Stars have many players that are in (or around) the prime of their careers—and adding an offensively-talented veteran such as Joe Pavelski would certainly put Dallas’ ability to produce in the upper echelon of scoring squads in the NHL.
Not only that, but Nill could look to add another depth forward or a blueliner to help keep the defense as strong as it was in 2018-19.
Regardless of Dallas’ wants, it seems to be evident that the Stars will be buyers when Monday arrives.
- Published on 07/01/2019 at 11:14 AM
- Last updated at 07/01/2019 at 11:14 AM