When Valeri Nichushkin left for the KHL last summer after having trouble with Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff, the team lost one of its best young assets to a rival league. The former 10th-overall draft pick had put up 34 points in his rookie season, then missed most of the next year after hip surgery but came back with another solid 29 point season as a 20-year old last year. He looked like a star (pun intended) in the making in Dallas, ready to break out over the next few seasons.
Well, breakout he did, just on the wrong continent. With 24 points in 36 games, Nichushkin was outstanding for CSKA Moscow when he was healthy. He is under contract for one more season with the Russian team, but Jim Nill was on the radio today saying (via Mark Stepneski of NHL.com) that he would like to bring him back to North America eventually. The now 22-year old would be a nice addition if they could get him under contract, as they’re likely losing Ales Hemsky, Patrick Sharp and Jiri Hudler this year—not to mention Patrick Eaves and Lauri Korpikoski, who they dealt at the deadline.
- According to Stepneski, Nill also said that he likely will protect Nichushkin in the upcoming expansion draft, something that would complicate things quite a bit. Protecting Nichushkin would leave one of Antoine Roussel, Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa or Cody Eakin exposed, none of whom the Stars could afford losing for nothing. While leaving Nichushkin exposed isn’t perfect, it would be hard to see Vegas taking a swing at him not knowing for sure if he’d ever come back to the NHL. Perhaps the Stars will work out a deal with the Golden Knights on who to take, as they currently look like they’ll lose an effective player in the draft.
- Julius Honka will be back up with the NHL team at some point, to play another 8-10 games with the big club before the end of the season. The top prospect played 10 games earlier in the season for the team, and has thrived at the AHL level for three straight years. There will be no playoff run for the Texas Stars of the AHL this season, as they currently sit in seventh place in their division with a 27-29-4 record.