If you’re a New Jersey Devils’ fan, you know who Nikita Gusev is by now. You may not know a lot about it him, but you do know the basics. He’s a KHLer the Las Vegas Golden Knights are trying to move, and Devils’ Twitter wants him and wants him bad.
Over the weekend – per Giles Ferrell on Twitter – sources at The Athletic have seemingly found out Vegas’ asking price for the Russian forward. The Golden Knights are seeking both a second-round pick and a later round pick, and/or a prospect. If you’ve bought into Gusev mania, like much social media savvy Devils’ fans already have, that seems like a bargain of an asking price. It’s an offer that can’t be refused. But before the Devils’ Den starts selling the latest Gusev jerseys to adoring fans, there is one little roadblock general manager Ray Shero and New Jersey must face.
The Devils don’t have a second-round pick in the upcoming draft. Their 2020 second-rounder was sent to Nashville in the trade that brought patriotic bikini-wearing defenseman PK Subban to Jersey’s team. Of course, you could counter that the Devils could offer up a 2021 second-round pick no problem, but that likely won’t entice Vegas. Why settle for a second-round pick down the road when teams are almost certain to put together better offers with a more immediate return?
Then, of course, Shero could go all in and offer the New Jersey Devils’ first-round pick in the 2020 draft. That is almost certain – but not guaranteed – to be better than what most teams would present to the bargaining table. Surrendering that first-round pick to Sin City is all but certain to have Gusev land in Jersey for pork roll (or Taylor ham, I’m not trying to start any controversy here) loving locales to watch next season. But, it is a dicey risk to take.
Before any trade is agreed to, we have to cut through all the Gusev hype. Even though the ceiling for him appears high, he’s still an unproven KHLer whose yet to step foot on NHL-ice or play against NHL-competition. No matter how impressive his stats are in the Russian league, we can’t discount those reservations when hedging our bets on his potential return. He can be a top six winger, or he can be the next Neil Yakupov. Either way, if the Devils don’t make the playoffs next year, a potential lottery pick seems like a hefty price to pay.
As for the second requirement, Vegas is seeking a prospect or lower round draft pick, and the Devils definitely have a lot of those. Even if Shero over-compensates in that department, it’s hard to see a scenario where Vegas agrees to ship him to Jersey without the Devils overpaying. Remember, Vegas’s main motive here is to save cap space, so maybe there’s another avenue to go down. David Clarkson’s contract and cap hit have always been in play, so Vegas can possibly deal with a less than stellar return as long as Clarkson’s contract isn’t being paid out of their pocket any longer.
The price may be too high for Gusev since the Devils lack that second-round pick in 2020, or the price might just be right if Shero can get creative. Remember, if the deal is right for the Devils, trust Shero to get it done. If it’s not meant to be, and Gusev finds himself playing somewhere else come next season, Shero probably has a really good reason for passing on him.