The New Jersey Devils have acquired Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021. Additionally, the Devils have signed Gusev to a two-year, $9 million deal. The deal was first announced by The Hockey Writers’ own Dan Rice on Twitter.
With the Golden Knights salary cap becoming an issue, Gusev had been the subject of trade rumours for most of the offseason. The left-winger was a restricted free agent playing in Russia up until last season, and has yet to play his first NHL game.
Playing for SKA St. Petersburg in 2018-19, Gusev played in 62 games, recording 17 goals, while leading the league with 65 assists and 82 points. He also had a plus-32 rating. He was named to his fourth KHL All-Star Game, and then added another 19 points in 18 playoff games.
Gusev was drafted back in 2012 by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round, 202nd overall. Since then, he’s spent his time in Russia, playing in the 391 KHL games, collecting 119 goals and 213 assists. He helped SKA St. Petersburg to a Gagarin Cup in 2017. He was traded to the Golden Knights at the 2017 Expansion Draft, along with a 2017 second-round pick and a 2018 fourth-round pick.
He’s been a star on the international stage. At the 2019 World Championships, he had four goals and 12 assists in 10 games. He also helped Team Russia to an Olympic gold medal in 2018, chipping in four goals and 12 points in six games.
The 27-year-old’s extension will see him earn $5 million in 2019-20 and $4 million in 2020-21.
Devils Making Big Moves this Offseason
The Devils have been one of the busier teams this offseason, and they are all the better for it. On top of adding Gusev, they acquired PK Subban from the Nashville Predators, signed free agent Wayne Simmons, and drafted highly-touted prospect Jack Hughes first-overall. This is a team that already includes former-MVP Taylor Hall and 2017 first-overall pick Nico Hischier.
Coming off a season where they had just 72 points and finished third-last in the league, it appears general manager Ray Shero is wasting no time in getting his team back to the playoffs. The club looks like they might just be the team to have the biggest jump in the standings in the upcoming season.
Salary Cap Forced Golden Knights to Trade Gusev
Despite being arguable the best hockey player in the world outside of the NHL, the Golden Knights couldn’t make a Gusev contract worth with their current cap situation. As of now, the team has just over $1 million in cap space, but all of their important pieces are in place.
“We did our best to accommodate Nikita and his salary request but were unable to do so,” Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said. “He is a good person, a good player and we wish him well in New Jersey.”
“When you have a roster comprised of players who are deserving of a certain salary range you are not always able to make room for everyone. This is the reality of having a good team in the salary cap world. After this trade, we now own nine picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. These picks will help boost our organizational depth and add to our pool of prospects. Although we were not able to make this work, I am really happy with where we are at with our roster.”
While McPhee feels good about his roster, the loss of a player of Gusev’s caliber would be a blow to any organization. Especially if he breaks out in the NHL next season, this might be a trade that the Golden Knights will regret.
Starting out as an Ottawa Senators contributor for The Hockey Writers, Josh is now an editor and at-large contributor, focusing on prospects, the NHL Draft, hockey history, and breaking news stories.