No clarity, little subtlety on Avs' Valeri Nichushkin situation: 'What happens here moving forward, that's up to him'

Corey Masisak, The Denver Post on

Published in Hockey

DENVER — Chris MacFarland and Gabe Landeskog spent nearly an hour taking questions from assembled media Thursday, and there were nearly as many queries about Valeri Nichushkin as there were about the Avalanche captain.

Two integral members of the organization made one thing very clear: The proverbial ball is firmly in Nichushkin’s court.

There are many questions still to be answered, but a general theme was clear. Nichushkin, who is currently serving a suspension of at least six months after being forced back into the NHL-NHLPA Player Assistance Program for the third time in 13 months, has a lot of work to do beyond just the requirements for reinstatement from the league.

“Val is a teammate of ours. He’s a friend of ours. He’s somebody that we’ve raised the (Stanley) Cup with,” Landeskog said. “You care for him, and you want him to get help, and you want him to get right. Now, what happens here moving forward, that’s up to him, how he’s going to handle it.”

Nichushkin was placed into Stage 3 of the assistance program and suspended the day of Game 4 of Colorado’s second-round series against the Dallas Stars. Landeskog, like a couple of other teammates, admitted the team was shaken by the news.

It’s the second consecutive postseason where Nichushkin’s off-ice problems made him unavailable in the middle of a playoff series. The Avs were clearly a Stanley Cup contender with him in the lineup in 2023-24, and Nichushkin had the best statistical season of his career despite missing nearly two months while in Stage 2.


The Avs, despite a valiant effort from a championship-winning core, were not a Cup contender after the suspension. Dallas blew out Colorado in Game 4 and finished off the Avs in double overtime in Game 6.

First, there is the question of whether Nichushkin will play for the Avs again. He has six years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of $6.125 million per season. He’s owed $8 million in salary for 2024-25, though a chunk of that is already going to be lost during the suspension.

MacFarland said he believes the six-month clock started the day he was suspended, so that would mean the earliest he can return is mid-November.

“What I can say to you is, we’ve got to look at all options, and at this time, priority one is for Val to get the help he needs,” MacFarland said. “Assuming he does, and after the six months, we’ll have to read and react on that. But it is very plausible that he will be back with the Avalanche.”


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