It’s been in the wind for weeks, but today the Dallas Stars made it official. Right wing and 2013 first-round pick Valeri Nichushkin is back after two years with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
GM Jim Nill finally announced Val’s new deal today, which secures his services for two years at a $2.95 million AAV:
“We are excited to welcome Val back to the Dallas Stars,” Nill said. “Over his past two seasons in the KHL and with the national team, he has continued his growth and development as a hockey player. Val was one of his team’s most outstanding players last season. He is a fantastic addition to our depth at forward and we look forward to his return to our club.”
Nichushkin quietly built his game with CSKA over the past two seasons, scoring 51 points over 86 regular-season matches and leading all team forwards in TOI (16:28 per game). The former No. 10 pick overall also got valuable playoffs experience, skating in a total of 28 Gagarin Cup Playoffs games and earning 14 postseason points.
Val’s rookie triumphs in Dallas are a matter of public record – 34 points in 79 games, including 14 goals (two of them game-winners) and a plus-minus of 20. So are his subsequent struggles, including a November 2014 hip surgery that torpedoed his sophomore campaign and disagreements with then-coach Lindy Ruff over his role and ice time in 2015-2016 – an argument that led directly to his return to the KHL.
At 23, Nuke still has his peak playing years to look forward to. Even more, he’s had time to mature as a professional and as a person since his first year in Dallas, when he parachuted into the NHL roster as an 18-year-old with elite hockey skills and virtually no English. What can the Stars expect now?
It seems a given that Nichushkin will take a top-six space upon his return, depending on the results of the Stars’ training camp in Boise this September. Will he reunite with former top-line partners Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn? Will he provide a high-end target for Jason Spezza’s playmaking skills? Or could he lend a scoring touch to a Radek Faksa line? Let’s talk about it.
The Stars have the full release. [Dallas Stars]