What’s next for Avalanche and Valeri Nichushkin? Here are some possibilities

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The view from outside Denver on Valeri Nichushkin’s situation with the Avalanche is filled with fascination and conflicted feelings.

Nichushkin is suspended through at least mid-November and has re-entered the NHL-NHLPA Player Assistance Program. It is his third time in the program since the end of the 2022-23 regular season. For the second time in as many years, the Avs were left without one of their integral players in the middle of a playoff series it ultimately lost.

The Denver Post canvassed people from around the hockey community — agents, team officials, analysts — this past week during the NHL draft combine for thoughts on what might happen moving forward for Nichushkin and the Avalanche.

There was only one consensus: Everyone spoke of Nichushkin’s personal well-being as the first priority.

“The Avalanche know Nichushkin better than any outside person or pundit would,” said Jon Goyens, who coached several future NHL players in Quebec before joining TSN and Daily Faceoff as an analyst. “As a coach who always talked about putting the environment for the person first ahead of the player, you just hope he can find something that is sustainable for the rest of his life, let alone hockey.”

Thoughts on what might happen next on the hockey side for Nichushkin and the Avalanche were varied. One member of another team’s front office said there probably would be interest in giving Nichushkin another chance if Colorado wants to move on, but declined to say whether his club would.

A member of a different front office offered up the “only takes one” cliche, but it wouldn’t be his team. A simple question — What should the Avs do? — often led to more questions than potential solutions.

Nichushkin is currently in Stage 3 of the player assistance program, which carries a mandatory suspension of at least six months without pay. He will need to follow the terms of his treatment plan for the duration of his suspension and then gain reinstatement before he can return to team activities.

Both Samuel Girard and Nichushkin entered the program during the regular season and needed to be cleared twice — once to return to practice and again to play in games.

There has been confusion about what can or cannot happen in the future with Nichushkin and the Avs. This is a look at some of the outcomes that are (or are not) possible.

Contract termination

The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported that a league source told him shortly after the suspension was announced that nothing that had transpired to that point was grounds for the Avs to terminate his contract. If Nichushkin violates his treatment plan again, he’ll be placed in Stage 4. That includes a mandatory one-year suspension, and reinstatement is not guaranteed.

A trade

Could the Avs trade Nichushkin while he is suspended and in the player assistance program? Yes, and no.

A league source told The Post there are no restrictions from the NHL about trading a player in the program. There is a significant roadblock, though: Nichushkin currently has a full …read more

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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