Following recent rumblings that Valeri Nichushkin could potentially return to Dallas, the Stars took the step of protecting the talented and towering forward from the expansion draft.
Nichushkin signed a two-year deal in CSKA Moscow last season, returning to Russia after three seasons with Dallas, which selected him 10th overall in 2013.
Now 22 years old, he posted 24 points in 36 games in the first year of that deal with Moscow, but the Stars have always seemed to maintain hope that the six-foot-four winger would always return to Dallas — and, in the words of general manager Jim Nill, a “more mature” player.
In a recent interview, Stars director of amateur scouting Joe McDonnell told NHL.com that there is a 50-50 chance Dallas gets Nichushkin back next season, though that decision is totally up to the player.
“[If he does return], coach Ken Hitchcock and him will have to forge a relationship,” said McDonnell. “If you watch Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin during the Stanley Cup playoffs, that’s what a Val Nichushkin can be in the end. But it’s whether he has it in his heart. If he wants to do it, he can do it.”
The biggest issue seemed to be that Nichushkin didn’t want to play for Lindy Ruff, who was let go in April after the Stars missed the playoffs. Dallas quickly named Hitchcock as Ruff’s replacement a few days later.