Avalanche re-sign Valeri Nichushkin to 8-year, $49 million contract

Avalanche Valeri Nichushkin
Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

The Colorado Avalanche managed to keep a significant part of their Stanley Cup winning roster.

The team announced on Monday that it has re-signed forward Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year, $49 million contract extension before the opening of unrestricted free agency on Wednesday.

That comes out to a salary cap hit of $6.125 million per season.

Without a new deal Nichushkin would have been one of the top players to enter unrestricted free agency this summer. Now he is staying in Colorado.

This is a pretty monster deal for both Nichushkin and the Avalanche.

[Related: Avalanche re-sign Georgiev; shuffle front office]

For the former, it completes an incredible career turnaround just three years after he was bought out by the Dallas Stars following a year where he scored zero goals (and recorded zero penalty minutes) in more than 50 regular season games. He signed a bargain contract with Colorado that offseason and in his three years with the Avalanche not only blossomed into one of the best defensive and two-way wingers in the league, he also saw his offense steadily improve until having a breakout season this year.

For as good as he was during the regular season, his game reached an entirely new level in the playoffs when he was one of the Avalanche’s most important players on their Stanley Cup run.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Signing Tracker]

With Nichushkin now signed and Alexandar Georgiev locked into a three-year deal following his acquisition from the New York Rangers, it seems likely that Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri — Colorado’s other big unrestricted free agents — are likely to hit the open market. Colorado does still have roughly $14 million in salary cap space, but it still has several roster spots to fill and has to re-sign restricted free agent Artturi Lehkonen to a new deal.

Nichushkin’s deal might not age well long term as he gets into his 30s, but he should still be a top-line two-way forward for the foreseeable future and be a key part of an Avalanche team that has the potential to win another Stanley Cup (or more) in the seasons ahead.

Scroll Down For:

    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.