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Valeri Nichushkin was publicly shanked by teammates
Credit: Photo by Ashley Potts/NHLI via Getty Images

Yesterday, we learned that Valeri Nichushkin had been placed on the NHL’s assistance program for the third time in a short space of time. The rumour is that he failed a test to see if he had drugs in his system.

This hit the Avalanche hard.

After three times on the program, a player is suspended for six months without pay – it has more impact when it happens in October, at the start of the season, than at the beginning of the summer – and he has to apply to return to the NHL.

More importantly, the benefit of the doubt is no longer in his favor.

All over the hockey world, people are saying that it’s up to him to take charge, and that there are limits to how far you can go in life without taking responsibility. More and more people are asking whether yesterday’s (big) loss in Colorado was his fault.

Among the incisive comments were those from teammates Jack Johnson and Andrew Cogliano.

The first player, when asked about it last night, said that Nichushkin made the decisions he wanted to make and that’s all he was going to say about it. The second simply said that’s what it is.

It’s clear that there’s a difference between Carey Price or Jonathan Drouin (who, by the way, is back in the game and played his first playoff game in four years yesterday) asking for help or Nichushkin acting out of character in the eyes of his peers.

Note, however, that I just wrote “in the eyes of his peers” when, deep down, we’re not sure he’ll be back.

After all, not only does he have to ask to return to the league in six months, but there’s no guarantee that his actions won’t open the door for the Avalanche to terminate his contract.

The Russian may be good, but at $6.125M until 2030 and with his past, it’s clear that the Avalanche will try to find a way to get him out of Denver forever.

And I don’t see the NHL getting in the way. Quite the contrary, in fact.

It’s worth mentioning, however, that according to Pierre LeBrun, who made his contacts, it could be difficult for the Avalanche to get out of the contract based on current data.

That said, even though Jared Bednar has said publicly that he hopes the player finds peace and receives help, we agree that it won’t be easy for the forward to return.

Renaud Lavoie mentioned that the assistance program isn’t necessarily a place where you can come and go as you please.

The player has a no-trade clause that comes into effect on June 15, 2025. The player will be able to prevent 12 other teams from acquiring him via trade.

But between you and me, who wants him these days?

In bursts

– Mentalities are changing.

– He’s excellent.

– What does the future hold for Brendan Shanahan?

– Junior Team Canada 2018: case to return to court today.[La Presse]

– He’s excellent this year.

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