Some believed that the Dallas Stars managed a serious steal by drafting Valeri Nichushkin 10th overall on Sunday, but as with many Russian players, the threat of the KHL made others wonder if it was actually too big of a risk.
Stars GM Jim Nill told the Dallas Morning News that Nichushkin is free from his overseas deal and that they should be able to overcome “The Russian Factor.”
“We plan on signing him as soon as possible,” Nill said. “He’s free. His contract is free from Russia. We have notice from the NHL, from the KHL. So there was no problem that way for us. That’s not a concern.”
Nichuskin told R-Sport (translation via the Tampa Tribune) that he intends to jump to the NHL, although there’s a caveat at the end that might remind some of Nikita Filatov’s situation with Columbus years ago.
“I’ve already made up my mind that I’m leaving,” Nichushkin said. “At Dynamo they’ve been pretty calm about it. I was told that I can leave if I want. There are no legal problems with that at all. My contract with Dynamo has been terminated, and I’m leaving as a free agent. I’m lucky that the club has met me halfway on this. We’ve agreed that they’ll release me, but if something goes wrong across the ocean, I’ll come straight back.”
Nill believes that Sergei Gonchar could help Nichushkin, much like he did with Evgeni Malkin during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think Sergei Gonchar’s going to be a big, big part of Valeri Nichushkin’s development,” Nill said. “Sergei Gonchar’s a high-end character guy. He’s the guy that gets a lot of credit for improving Malkin in Pittsburgh. The timing’s worked out perfect. He’s a great ambassador of the game and character guy. Now we have a young guy coming in that can learn from him, that’s really a bonus for us.”
Overall, it seems like the Stars think that the 18-year-old prospect is worth the risk, even if they’re seemingly downplaying the dangers.