Recently, Sean Shapiro of The Athletic (subscription required) reported that Valeri Nichushkin and his agent were confident that a deal would be worked out with the Dallas Stars to allow the 23-year old forward to return to the NHL. After leaving for the KHL two seasons ago, Dallas has maintained that they would like Nichushkin to return one day when he’s ready to help the Stars win. Now the team, well known for their dramatic Twitter reveals, has tweeted out “Choo Choo” along with a picture of Nichushkin in a Dallas uniform and a quote from GM Jim Nill:
I think in the end, Val’s going to come back as a Dallas Star here this year.
If Nichushkin does return to the NHL he’ll have to sign a new contract after leaving as a restricted free agent in the summer of 2016. By extending a qualifying offer the Stars retained his exclusive rights, and would be able to sign him to any deal the two sides felt comfortable with (within the confines of the CBA, that is).
Selected 10th overall in 2013, Nichushkin got off to a brilliant start in Dallas by scoring 14 goals and 34 points in his rookie season. The big forward is a freight train on skates, and proved to be a difficult player to handle even at such a young age. Unfortunately, a hip injury robbed him of most of the next season and after a disappointing 2015-16 under Lindy Ruff—a head coach that reportedly clashed with the young Russian winger—he was off to the KHL. His return to the NHL maybe wouldn’t be as impactful as Ilya Kovalchuk’s impending signing, but would certainly give the Stars another impressive young talent to build around.
Finishing third on CSKA Moscow in goals this season, Nichushkin was held out of the Olympics as one of the banned Russian players. He had to watch as his countrymen took home the gold medal, before injuring his shoulder in the KHL playoffs and missing out on the IIHF World Championship as well.