Mike Halford

Valeri Nichushkin
AP

Despite erratic year, Stars say Nichushkin still ‘very important player to us’

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Dallas did the expected on Tuesday, and made a qualifying offer for RFA forward Valeri Nichushkin.

Now, for the tricky part.

Described as a “very important player to us,” by GM Jim Nill (per the Morning-News), Nichushkin has until July 15 to accept the offer. He could also try and negotiate an extension with the Stars, or he could sign an offer sheet with another club.

With all those options available, it makes for an interesting dynamic.

The 10th overall pick in 2013, Nichushkin’s had a pretty eventful first three years in the NHL. He played very well as a rookie, scoring 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games, but his sophomore campaign was a nightmare — he missed nearly the entire season with a hip injury and subsequent surgery, and only appeared in eight contests.

Last year, he struggled.

Stars head coach Lindy Ruff made him a healthy scratch early in the season, saying Nichushkin needed to “get his head in the right place.” In late March, an interview with with Russian news outlet Sport-Express made waves, as Nichuskin said he didn’t feel head coach Ruff trusted him, or played him enough.

Not long after, Nichuskin’s agent tried to clear the air.

“Val loves it in Dallas,” Mark Gandler told the Morning News. “He’s very happy there.”

In the end, Nichushkin finished with just nine goals and 29 points in 79 regular season contests. He wasn’t much of a factor at all in the playoffs, playing 10 of 13 games while going goalless.

Last month, Nill preached patience with the 21-year-old Russian, saying “there’s still lots of room for growth.”

Colorado shakes up blueline again, will buy out Stuart

DENVER, CO - MARCH 14:  Brad Stuart #17 of the Colorado Avalanche looks on as he skates against the Calgary Flames at Pepsi Center on March 14, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Flames 3-2.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Brad Stuart‘s time is up in Colorado.

Per the Denver Post, the Avs are set to buy out the veteran defenseman of the final year of his contract — a two-year, $7.2 million deal with a $3.6M average annual cap hit.

Because Stuart is 36, Colorado won’t receive any salary cap relief with the buyout. It will, however, save $1.2 million in cash (two-thirds of Stuart’s salary is to be paid out over the course of this year and the next.)

A 16-year veteran, Stuart barely played for the Avs last year, missing extensive time with a back injury (and subsequent surgery). He appeared in just six games all told.

With this move and the trade of Nick Holden to the Rangers at the draft, Avs GM Joe Sakic has opened up some spots on defense. The goal is to have some of the organization’s young prospects make the leap to full-time NHL status.

Sakic told the Post that Nikita Zadorov (21 years old), Chris Bigras (21) and ’11 first-round pick Duncan Siemens (22) will have “every opportunity to try and make this team.”

Sakic added that 25-year-old Eric Gelinas, acquired from New Jersey at last year’s trade deadline, is also in the mix for minutes.

On that note, it’s probably worth mentioning the Avs passed on qualifying d-man Brandon Gormley and won’t re-sign UFA blueliner Zach Redmond.

That would seemingly put some pressure on Sakic to get a deal done with pending RFA Tyson Barrie. Though Barrie has been the subject of trade rumors over the last months, the Avs have said they’re not dealing him away.

Panthers hire Luongo’s brother as AHL goalie coach

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 8: Goaltender Roberto Luongo #1 of the Florida Panthers skates prior to the game against the Calgary Flames at the BB&T Center on November 8, 2014 in Sunrise, Florida. The Flames defeated the Panthers 6-4. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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Florida continued to overhaul its hockey operations on Tuesday, but with a twist — Leo Luongo, the younger brother of starting goalie Roberto Luongo, has been hired as the club’s goalie coach for AHL Springfield.

More:

The 31-year old Luongo has served as goaltending coach for the HC Lugano organization of the Swiss National League A for the last three seasons (2013-16). During his time in Switzerland, Luongo also served as a video/goaltending coach in the Spengler Cup tournament for Lugano (2015) and Team Canada (2013, 2014).

Previously, the Montreal, Quebec native served as a goaltending consultant & instructor for Hockey Canada (2009-11), goaltending coach for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (2007-13) and a voluntary goaltending coach for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch (2012-13).

As mentioned above, this is just the latest change for the Panthers. To recap:

Fired assistant coach John Madden, replaced him with Dave Barr.

Promoted Dale Tallon to president of hockey ops, named Tom Rowe assistant GM, named Eric Joyce and Steve Werier assistant GMs.

Promoted longtime scout Peter Mahovlich to a special advisor to ownership role.

— Fired Scott Luce, the club’s director of player personnel, then named Jason Bukala co-director of amateur scouting and Al Tuer head pro scout.

Lindros, Vachon, Makarov and Quinn make Hockey Hall of Fame

Eric Lindros
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Monday was seventh heaven for Eric Lindros.

Lindros, in his seventh year of eligibility, was named to the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class today, along with longtime Montreal/L.A. goalie Rogie Vachon, famed Russian forward Sergei Makarov and former player/head coach Pat Quinn, who was inducted in the builder’s category after passing away two years ago.

Known as “The Big E” during his playing days, Lindros was one of the most dominant power forwards in NHL history — yet it was his brief window of dominance that was often at the center of HHOF debates. When Lindros was healthy and in his prime, he was elite. He captured the Hart Trophy as league MVP in 1995, and was (at the time) the fourth-fastest player in NHL history to score 300 and 400 points.

Despite being active for 15 season, health problems — specifically a series of recurring concussion symptoms — limited Lindros to just 760 career games played. He did finish with 865 points in those games, and another 57 in 53 career playoff contests.

Vachon, who retired in 1982 and has been eligible for quite some time, finally got his call from the hall. A three-time Stanley Cup winner, Vachon captured the Vezina as the NHL top netminder in 1968, and held a number of the Kings’ franchise records during his seven seasons in L.A.

One of the most decorated international competitors of all time, Makarov was a staple of the Soviet Untion national teams in the 70s and 80s, winning two Olympic gold medals and eight world championships. He joined the Calgary Flames in 1989 and — at the age of 31 — scored 86 points in 80 games to capture the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year.

(The league has since implemented an age rule on the Calder, largely because of Makarov.)

Quinn, a two-time Jack Adams winner for coach of the year, led both Philadelphia (1980) and Vancouver (1994) to the Stanley Cup Finals as a bench boss and was highly decorated internationally, winning gold medals at the U-18, World Junior, World Cup and — most famously — the Olympic level, guiding Canada to victory in 2002 at Salt Lake.

Quinn also had served as the chairman of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Blues extend Brodziak — two years, $1.9 million

Jake Allen, Carl Gunnarsson, Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak
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The Blues liked Kyle Brodziak‘s first season in St. Louis so much, they signed up for two more.

On Monday, the club announced it signed Brodziak to a two-year, $1.9 million extension — one that carries a $950,000 average annual cap hit.

Signed to a one-year, $900,000 deal last season, Brodziak was a regular fixture in the lineup last season, appearing in 76 games while recording seven goals and 11 points.

In 20 playoff appearances, he scored twice.

Once a pretty effective scorer — he scored 38 times over two years in Minnesota — Brodziak is now almost primarily a bottom-six energy forward with good checking ability.

He was one of the better shot-blocking forwards on the team last year and was active in the faceoff circle, finishing fourth on the team in draws won.

With that bit of business done, GM Doug Armstrong can focus on some of his bigger decisions. Team captain David Backes is still without a contract, as is playoff standout Troy Brouwer.

Armstrong must also set aside money for prized RFA forward Jaden Schwartz, who had 14 points in 20 playoff games.