Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff said he would welcome another chance to coach forward Valeri Nichushkin, who is expected to sign a two-year contract with CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League.
"I'd be more than happy to have him back because I really like what he has to offer," Ruff told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday.
A restricted free agent, Nichushkin, 21, said in March that he thought Stars coaches had no confidence in him, reportedly telling a Russian news service, "Whatever money nor suggested. I want to play. What good [is it if] I stay here, if the guys from the farm come and play more than me? That is, the coach made it clear that [he trusts] anyone -- not you."
Ruff said Tuesday he addressed the issue and had a positive exit interview with Nichushkin after the Stars were eliminated from the Western Conference Second Round by the St. Louis Blues in seven games.
"I was actually surprised, I thought we were communicating well," Ruff said. "Our last meeting, Val told me he understood the situation and he had things he wanted to work on in the summer. I thought the conversation was great."
Nichushkin returned to Russia during the summer. CSKA Moscow obtained his KHL rights and said Monday it reached agreement with Nichushkin on a two-year contract that will be signed "in the near future."
Nichushkin, the No. 10 pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, had nine goals and 29 points in 79 games last season. His ice time per game dwindled from 14:58 as a rookie in 2013-14, when he had 14 goals and 34 points in 79 games, to 13:55 in 79 games last season. A hip injury limited him to eight games in 2014-15.
"I think Val got good minutes and great chances, I really do. I think he might have gotten more than some other players who might have deserved more," Ruff said. "We were a team that was desperate to make the playoffs and we played the players we felt helped us the most."
Forward Mattias Janmark played on the second line with Jason Spezza. Forwards Radek Faksa and Stephen Johns also saw time and were key players during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"A guy like came in and played so well, same with Faksa and Johns," Ruff said. "They forced us to make decisions. Other young players didn't do that. I take a lot of pride in how I communicate with the players and I really think I did that with Val. Some decisions are hard for coaches."