New Colorado Avalanche general manager (GM) Chris MacFarland and President of Hockey Operations Joe Sakic have a lot of decisions surrounding the roster to make heading into the 2022 offseason after winning the Stanley Cup. They have several key free-agent decisions to make, but they crossed one off the list when playoff hero Valeri Nichushkin agreed to an eight-year contract extension with an average annual value (AAV) of $6.125 million Monday.
Nichushkin played a big role in the Avalanche’s run through the postseason with nine goals and six assists, but it was the timing of most of his goals that were key, including two game-winning tallies. He had four goals and two assists in the Stanley Cup Final. He played the series-clinching Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning with an injury and logged 22:50 of ice time in the game.
Nichushkin Earned His Pay Day
There are some bigger names that MacFarland and Sakic need to retain than Nichushkin, but re-signing the 27-year-old was just as important as anyone else. He has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL and finally is getting rewarded for the tough beginning of his career.
Nichushkin was the 10th overall selection of the 2013 Entry Draft by the Dallas Stars and had 25 goals and 41 assists over five seasons with them while battling numerous injuries. After the 2015-16 season, he signed a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow in the Continental Hockey League (KHL) where he had 27 goals and 24 assists over two seasons before returning to Dallas for the 2018-19 season where he struggled with no goals and 10 assists in 57 games. He was signed as a free agent by Colorado in August of 2019 and what a signing it turned out to be.
After 23 goals and 25 assists in his first two seasons in Colorado, Nichushkin broke out in the 2021-22 regular-season with 25 goals and 27 assists. He carried over his strong regular season to the postseason to help the Avalanche win their third Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Colorado Has More Work to Do
Before the 2022 Entry Draft in Montreal last week, Sakic acquired goalie Alexander Georgiev from the New York Rangers, which is allowing Darcy Kuemper, who backboned the playoff run for Colorado to hit the free-agent market. Sunday, the Avalanche agreed to a three-year contract extension with Georgiev for $10.2 million with an annual average value (AAV) of $3.4 million.
Related: Avalanche 2022 Free Agent Targets: Defensemen
Colorado has decisions to make on the futures of Nazem Kardi, Andre Burakovsky, and Josh Manson over the next couple of days as they piece together a roster for the 2022-23 season. The Avalanche have $15.710 million remaining in cap space following Nichushkin’s deal.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.