The Colorado Avalanche will be feeling the pressure of cap space this offseason. Some fan favorites will not be in an Avs uniform next fall due to this. One man is making a statement to return to the Avs next fall with his string of phenomenal performances. That man is none other than Valeri Nichushkin.
Nichushkin is one of several UFA’s at the end of this season along with his linemates of Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky. Darcy Kuemper still needs to be re-signed, along with a mixture of Darren Helm, Andrew Cogliano, Nico Sturm, Josh Manson, Ryan Murray, and Jack Johnson. They also have Artturi Lehkonen and Nicolas Aube-Kubel to negotiate with as RFA’s.
There’s a whole bunch of pieces we can do about each guy and who gets signed/doesn’t get signed. We’ll get to more of those later on in the year, but let’s focus on Nichushkin in this one. Simply put, the Avs cannot let him walk away during the offseason.
He’s been having a career year, as many players have on the Avs this season. Unfortunately, Kadri looks to have earned a pay raise the Avs cannot give him and it’d be a surprise to see him in an Avs jersey next year. Nichushkin is getting close to surpassing that same border that Kadri has already crossed thanks to his plays as Jared Bednar described earlier today.
Nichushkin has a $2.5M cap hit at the moment and will certainly be in line for a big, new paycheck. This year alone, he’s setting career-bests with 25 goals and 27 assists with a +24. In the recent drought the Avs had been on to end the regular season, he was one of the few showing up to play and putting up points. Since April 9, he has gotten at least one point in eight of the nine games. Four of these games are multi-point games and in two games he scored two goals (screenshot per NHL.com).
Now is the right time for Nichushkin to get hot. He’s doing just that en route to the first round of the playoffs just days away. Having this career year with such a low cap hit is only a call for a higher pay grade. I think Nichushkin will probably be looking for something between Burakovsky’s contract and Nathan MacKinnon’s contract. Those values line up to $4.9M and $6.3M respectively.
With Nichushkin being a second-line guy and value, anywhere in this range seems appropriate. With that being said, I am no sports agent - take it with a grain of salt. But this is my best guess of what Nichushkin’s value may be. However, depending on how he does the rest of the regular season heading into the postseason, it will play a crucial role in just how big his new pay grade will be. Whether it’s over or under MacKinnon’s $6.3M will be determined later on.
With 10 UFA’s on the roster, the Avs certainly have their work cut out for them to get a good side under the cap next year. With the cap going up an additional $1M next year, it will work in the Avs’ favor. One of the top priorities, if not, the top priority, has to be getting No. 13 re-signed for the third time. At 27 years old, keeping Nichushkin here for his prime would give the Avs a major boost in keeping the second line a strong line at that for the foreseeable future.