Less than 24 hours after rumors surfaced that Dallas Stars restricted free agent Valeri Nichushkin was close to signing a KHL contract, it is now (presumably) official. Nichushkin has reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow of the KHL, via their own public release and the power of Google Translate (which, funnily enough, says he was drafted by the NBA and maybe that's been the problem all along?)
CSKA Moscow says Valeri Nichushkin has agreed to terms on a two-year deal.https://t.co/DogwrH78Qd— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) September 20, 2016
What's unclear based on this rough translation is whether the contract has been officially signed or not. Could this be the last 30 seconds of the game of chicken before someone has to move? Possibly, but unlikely. It seems that most media types on Twitter are considering this a done deal, and are treating it as such.
There's been plenty of speculation of what's causing Nichushkin to go back to Russia. Here is what we know with certainty: Nichushkin had two job options. 1) Return to the Dallas Stars by finding terms both sides agree on. 2) Sign somewhere overseas. He chose option two, which is his right.
It's unfair to make assumptions that Nichushkin somehow didn't make the effort, or that this shows he's immature, or that this was some kind of inevitability simply because he's Russian. Those are all stereotypes Russian players are labeled with here in North America that almost borders on Russophobia (the fear of Russians).
At the end of the day, Nichushkin has made a business decision not unlike we all make when we choose to take a different job than the one we have today. He chose to sign in the KHL instead of returning to the Dallas Stars this year. General manager Jim Nill has been quoted numerous times that he understands this is a business and that this is an option open to RFAs.
Nichushkin's reasons for making this choice may never be clearly understood in the public forum, and it's not imperative that the fans ever learn his reasoning. It's only important for the Stars front office to understand what led their young prospect to make this decision and then evaluate where the organization did what they could and where they could do better the next time they're dealing with a young prospect in a similar situation.
The Dallas Stars retain Nichushkin's NHL rights until he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent at 27 (or approximately six more seasons) or until they trade them to a different team (if they choose to do so). Unless there is a specific out clause in the KHL contract like he had when he was drafted, Nichushkin will not be able to return to the NHL for at least the next two seasons.
Now the Stars will turn their eyes to the team they will have this season. They're gearing up for training camp and it will seem like they've moved on from this storyline. But just because it will fade from the public eye quickly doesn't mean that the lessons learned through this process will not stick with both sides for much, much longer.