The Dallas Stars have quite the to-do list this offseason, but perhaps the most challenging decision it has to make will have to do with its fringe prospects. The team has a number of interesting young forwards who might be ready to take on a full-time role in Dallas, but the last thing they want to do is have some of its fringe players to slow up the development of those prospects.
One key decision the Stars must make is what to do with forward Valeri Nichushkin, who signed a two-year, $5.9MM contract last offseason to return to Dallas after bolting for the KHL earlier in his career. SportsDay’s Matthew DeFranks writes that the team must decide whether they are better off without the 24-year-old, who failed to score a goal this year in 57 games, and buy him out.
The former 10th overall pick in 2013 started his NHL career strong with a 14-goal, 34-point season as a 18-year-old. However, injuries hampered him after that as he saw his playing time cut and Nichushkin opted to return to the KHL after his entry-level deal ran out. While his numbers in the KHL weren’t exactly overwhelming (27 goals over two seasons), the Stars had hoped that bringing him back this year would put him back on course to being a top-six winger for the team. Instead he struggled terribly, putting up just 10 assists in 57 games as he saw a career-low 11:55 of ATOI and also saw him as a healthy scratch for multiple games.
At $2.95MM, Nichushkin is the sixth-highest paid forward on the team and if the team values restricted free agents Brett Ritchie and Mattias Janmark as bottom-six depth options, they may feel it’s better to allow Nichushkin to leave and return to the KHL. If the team opts to buy him out, it would only cost them $700K in 2018-19, while costing them a reasonable $450K in 2020-21. However, with some interesting prospects close to ready to make an impact such as Denis Gurianov, Jason Robertson, Ty Delandrea and Joel L’Esperance, the team needs to make a little room for one or two of them.