NHL Trade Analysis: Nikita Gusev Finally Traded to New Jersey
Nikita Gusev and the Vegas Golden Knights not close on a two-year deal
© Andrew Nelles-USA TODAY Sports (Nikita Gusev)

Nikita Gusev wanted to go somewhere he could play a lot. In New Jersey, he gets that chance and then some. New Jersey acquires their top-six winger in exchange for a 2020 third-round and a 2021 second-round pick. This helps Vegas and their cap situation as well while they stockpile some picks previously lost.

What the Nikita Gusev trade means for Vegas

Simply, it means two more draft picks to help the prospect pool. Some debate about whether Gusev is another Vadim Shipachyov. On the other hand, Gusev comes off an MVP season in the KHL and Shipachov was 30 (Gusev is 27). Aside from age semantics, Gusev did not want to be stashed away in Vegas any longer and New Jersey had a need.

Vegas possesses nine draft picks for 2020 and eight for 2021. That 2021 draft is where Vegas could make another move considering they now have three second-round picks. It will be intriguing to see what the Golden Knights’ brain trust decides to do there. Either way, this makes the Golden Knights’ job of restocking their prospect pool a little easier.

From the Vegas viewpoint, they could not sign Nikita Gusev anyway. They did not have the cap space (Gusev wanted $4 million. Vegas had $1+ million left). After the Shipachov mess, they determined it was better not to have egg on their face again and get something for Nikita Gusev.

Is this something they may regret again? Perhaps. On the other hand, they may not. Vegas rolled the bones here hoping New Jersey draws snake eyes.

What the Nikita Gusev trade means for New Jersey

Last week at the P.K. Subban press conference, it was asked if a Nikita Gusev type move could be made. Ray Shero remained coy as usual but ownership mentioned that “Ray is wheelin and dealin. Indeed, several trade ideas were being explored. Gusev was one of them and had been for some time.

The result became the Monday afternoon trade involving the KHL MVP. Again, this is a player who averaged a point-a-game in his final three KHL seasons. Some will mention that Artemi Panarin is comparable and could be. Gusev could also completely flame out like some thought Shipachyov did.

Also, when Gusev wanted $4 million from Vegas, it was assumed he would want a good bit more elsewhere. That was not the case. New Jersey made this move to solidify their top-six forward core. If it pans out, the Devils have made a compelling case to Taylor Hall about their commitment level.

They may also not be done yet as Devils ownership insinuated the plural trades and not trade. Oh, there was one more wrinkle to this.

Nikita Gusev signed a two-year deal with New Jersey

Ah, Gusev signed a “bridge” deal in a sense for two years and $4.5 million AAV. The forward gets paid like a middle-six forward but has top-six potential easily.

A few wrinkles are sprinkled into the signing as well. Gusev gets an eight-team no-trade list for the 2020-21 season. Furthermore, $4.3 million of the $5 million salary for 2019-20 comes via a signing bonus for the Russian forward.

The best part is that New Jersey still has over $12 million in cap space with only Pavel Zacha and Will Butcher to sign. Yes, 2020-21 requires some juggling but not as much as some would think. The bottom line is this. New Jersey is going for it. Gusev presents a significant step in that direction.