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Door Left Cracked Open For Nichushkin, Even If That Might Not Be What The Avalanche Want

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How could the Colorado Avalanche possibly allow Valeri Nichushkin back into their locker room next season? On Thursday, we got that answer.

They might have no other choice.

“What I can say to you is, we’ve got to look at all options,” Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland told the media. “The obvious question is termination, right? And at this time, that’s not an option.”

Both MacFarland and Captain Gabriel Landeskog left the door cracked open for Nichushkin to return to the team once he’s reinstated by the NHL, but that’s because they had to. They can’t really say otherwise right now. The NHL won’t allow the Avalanche to terminate the contract at this time, and a buyout, if it was available to them, would leave the organization with a cap hit until 2036. Nichushkin’s current contract carries a no-move clause for the 2024-25 season, so they couldn’t waive him if they wanted to. I imagine there will be a lot of behind the scenes work by the organization to see what options they have with the contract this summer, but there’s no telling where that could go.

If he’s still a member of the organization and gets reinstated by the NHL, they might have no choice but to welcome him back.

“Assuming he does (get the help he needs), and after the six months, we’ll have to read and react on that.” MacFarland said. “But it is very plausible that he will be back with the Avalanche.”

Plausible? I guess. They kind of have to say that right now to cover themselves. However, everything else said by the players, the coach, and general manager show how frustrated, angry, and disappointed the organization feels by what happened.

“The news came the morning of Game 4 on Monday. You get a phone call, and you see the number, and you get a pit in your stomach, right? That was a tough one,” MacFarland said. “That Monday was very disappointing. We’ve got 25 guys … of whatever it is over the course of the season. That’s a tough blow. I felt for the group.”

Both Landeskog and MacFarland made it clear they care for Nichushkin and want him to get the help he needs, but there are two sides to this. On one side, you feel your friend who is battling something that you might not truly be able to understand. I know I couldn’t understand it. On the other side of it, you have an entire locker room full of people who were left in a terrible spot for the second year in a row.

I don’t know if you can bring those two sides together again.

“Number one, the first thing that came to my mind, is I just felt bad for the guys in the room,” Landeskog said. “The guys have battled so hard and the guys had cared so much. This time of year, it’s definitely difficult.”

Before the season, Nathan MacKinnon said they welcomed Nichushkin back into the locker room “with open arms.” Landeskog was asked if that could happen again next season.

“We will see how Val handles this situation and how the next six months go,” he said.

So yes, there’s a slim chance Nichushkin plays for the Avalanche again, but that might be because the organization has no choice. If the opportunity arrises, they’ll look to move on as quickly as they can.

And that’s really what would be best for the team moving forward.

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