DENVER – One of the Avalanche’s top contributors, and perhaps biggest surprises, to this year’s Stanley Cup victory is coming back. The Avs re-signed forward Valeri Nichushkin Monday to an eight-year deal, the team announced.
Nichushkin was among the Avs' top players in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tallying nine goals and six assists, including two game-winning goals.
He also set career highs in goals (25), assists (27) and points (52) this season and had five game-winning goals overall. He averaged the most ice time of his career per game (19:02) and was +21 in terms of points this season.
Nichushkin has one of the best turnaround stories in the NHL. He was drafted 10th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Dallas Stars and got off to a strong start, tallying 14 goals and 20 assists in 79 games as a rookie with Dallas.
He underwent hip surgery early on in his second season and played only eight games at age 19. In his third year, he tallied nine goals and 20 assists in 79 games for the Stars.
But he also played for the Dallas AHL affiliate and spent 2016-18 playing with CSKA Moscow before the Stars brought him back for the 2018-19 season, in which he did not score a goal and had 10 assists in 57 games, though he finished -4 while on the ice.
The Avalanche signed him for the 2019-20 season, and he rebounded, scoring 13 goals and tallying 14 assists while finishing the season +26 while on the ice, ac career best.
He played in all but one of the Avs’ 2020-21 games, finishing with 21 points and +9 during the shortened season.
In addition to his career highs this past season, Big Val had five multi-goal games, which was two more than he had the entire rest of his career. He also had his longest point streak of his career, at seven games.
In his three seasons since the Avs signed him as a free agent in August 2019, Nichushkin has 100 points (48 goals and 52 assists) and a +56 rating – third among Avs forwards.
Resigning Nichushkin ahead of Wednesday’s start to free agency was seen as a top priority for the Cup-winning Avalanche and newly promoted brass Joe Sakic and Chris MacFarland.
“Signing Val to a long-term deal was a top priority for us this offseason, as he would have been one of the most sought-after forwards on the open market,” Sakic said in a statement. “Val is a big, strong, fast, tenacious winger who is relentless on the puck. He can play on the first line with our top guys, you can move him up and down the lineup. He plays power play, penalty kill, any situation you need him to. He works hard off the ice as well in the gym and is a humble person and great teammate. He is such an important player in our lineup and a huge reason why we won the Stanley Cup.”