Earlier today, the Dallas Morning News caught wind of an interview Valeri Nichushkin did with Russian news outlet Sport-Express, in which a frustrated Nichushkin said he didn’t feel head coach Lindy Ruff trusted him, or played him enough.
Not long after, Nichuskin’s agent cleared the air.
“Val loves it in Dallas,” Mark Gandler told the Morning News. “He’s very happy there.”
To hear Gandler explain it, the 21-year-old “can go from 0 to 100 emotionally,” adding that the Sport-Express interview happened “right after a game, and he was frustrated.”
Gandler also said “I don’t think [Nichushkin] even knew what was said in the interview.”
That might quiet the storm for now, but it’s hard to look at this situation and not see some kind of issue at hand.
After a good rookie campaign in which he scored 14 goals and 34 points, Nichushkin had a forgettable sophomore campaign, one that was derailed almost entirely by a hip injury and subsequent surgery.
This year, he’s found it difficult getting back into the mix.
The 10th overall pick in 2013 was a healthy scratch on a few occasions, and Ruff didn’t mince words about the decision, saying Nichushkin needed to “get his head in the right place.” In that light, it’s worth noting that — in the Sport-Express interview — Nichuskin said he rarely talks to Ruff, and mostly communicates with GM Jim Nill.
To Ruff’s credit, he downplayed this latest incident, and even offered the young forward an out.
“I didn’t read the article. I think that maybe some of that is from earlier in the year,” the veteran bench boss said. “I think right now that Val is in a good place.”
Though Nichushkin’s minutes are down this year — he’s averaging under 14 per game — he does have decent offensive totals (nine goals, 27 points in 73 games) and is still a tantalizing talent.
Put it all together, though, and you’ve got the makings for an interesting offseason negotiation. Nichushkin’s entry-level deal expires in July.