AVALANCHE

Nichushkin could return to Avs, but suspension was “disappointing”

May 23, 2024, 12:05 PM

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t have forward Valeri Nichushkin for the final three games of the playoffs this year.

The same things happened for the last five games of the 2023 postseason.

Both times, Nichushkin left the team in the middle of a series. The first one was entering Phase 1 of the Player Assistance Program of the NHLPA and NHL, the second time for Phase 3. Nichushkin is now serving a six-month suspension from the league.

And whether or not he plays for the Avalanche again is a major talking point entering this offseason.

On Thursday, at the team’s end of season press conference, both GM Chris MacFarland and captain Gabriel Landeskog spoke about his situation. Each man said they’re concerned first for Nichushkin getting the help he needs, but also expressed him being out of the lineup for a second straight year in the most important games was frustrating.

There’s a lot to digest, but first is MacFarland saying he does see a scenario where Nichushkin plays for the Avalanche again.

“We’ve got to look at all options for that. At this time, priority one is for Val to get the help he needs,” MacFarland said. “Assuming he does, 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.”

MacFarland said it’s not an option to terminate the remaining money on Nichushkin’s eight-year, $49 million contract.

Landeskog and MacFarland also talked about getting hit with the news before Game 4 against the Stars that Nichushkin was suspended. Each admitted the timing couldn’t have been much worse.

“Devastating to lose a guy like that going into Game 4,” Landeskog said. “I’m sure in that Game 4, guys were pretty rattled about it. Pretty hard to set aside and just go play.”

The Avalanche lost Game 4 by a score of 5-1 and never really seemed to have their legs.

For MacFarland, the news was disappointing after receiving a phone call from a number he didn’t want to see. He said he got a pit in his stomach.

“That Monday was very disappointing,” MacFarland said. “We got 25 guys, 30 guys, whatever it is over the course of the season. That’s a tough blow. And I felt for the group.”

As for if the Avalanche can move forward with Nichushkin on the team, Landeskog said we’ll have to see how the next six months shake out.

“I don’t know. Like Chris said, it’s kind of up to Val now how he handles this,” Landeskog said.

He went on to add that “once he comes back” they’ll be ready to have him and battle with him.

For now, a lot seem to be up in the air. It’s clear the Avalanche need to see the work from Nichushkin to get himself right off the ice, and then the process of that trust being regained could potentially begin.

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