One of the most under-the-radar redemption stories over the past few seasons in the NHL has been Valeri Nichushkin. A top-10 choice of the Dallas Stars in 2013, Nichushkin struggled with consistency in his early years in Dallas, leading him to return to his native Russia for two seasons after the expiry of his entry-level contract. The Stars then signed him to a two-year, $5.9MM contract prior to the 2018-19 season to bring him back to the NHL. However, after scoring no goals and just 10 assists in 57 games in 2018-19, the Stars bought out the second year of his contract, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Avalanche took a chance on him in free agency, inking him to a one-year deal worth $850,000. His offensive production rebounded but, perhaps most importantly, he started growing his reputation as one of the best defensive wingers in the NHL among the analytics community. It earned him a contract extension which paid off in a big way for Colorado this year, with Nichushkin providing 25 goals and 52 points in 62 games with just a $2.5MM cap hit.
That type of production along with his defensive reputation is sure to earn Nichushkin a solid chunk of change this summer. However, Bally Sports Midwest’s Andy Strickland reports that Nichushkin and the Avalanche discussed a contract extension earlier in the season, but the two sides weren’t close to an agreement. Now 27 and an unrestricted free agent off a strong contract year, this is the best chance Nichushkin will have to capitalize financially. It would surprise few if the Avalanche can’t afford to retain him, especially as the team needs to prioritize their goaltending uncertainty and a contract extension for Nathan MacKinnon.
- Strickland is also confirming this morning that the Winnipeg Jets have interviewed former Dallas Stars head coach and current St. Louis Blues assistant Jim Montgomery for their head coaching vacancy. While most have linked the Jets most strongly with top free-agent coach Barry Trotz, it’s no guarantee that he takes the job (or any job) this summer. Dallas fired Montgomery just a few months into the 2019-20 season for “inappropriate conduct,” leading Montgomery to seek residential treatment for alcohol abuse. Montgomery found a job with the Blues for the following two seasons, mainly as a power-play coach. The Athletic’s Murat Ates reported last week that Montgomery was Winnipeg’s current second choice to Trotz. Montgomery has also been linked to the Philadelphia Flyers’ coaching vacancy this offseason.
- The field for the 2022 Memorial Cup, which begins next week in Saint John, New Brunswick, is nearly set. After both winning their respective league championships, the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes will join the host Saint John Sea Dogs at the tournament. The fourth and final spot will go to the winner of tomorrow’s Game 7 in the OHL finals between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Windsor Spitfires.