New Jersey Devils general manager Ray Shero signified the team's intention to be a top competitor this season when he selected center Jack Hughes first overall and acquired defenseman P.K. Subban from the Predators during NHL's draft weekend.
The Devils furthered that quest when the team acquired Russian forward Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights and subsequently signed him to a two-year, $9 million contract.
The Devils acquired left-wing Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for New Jersey’s third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and the club’s second-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 29, 2019
Vegas received two draft picks in the exchange: the Devils' third-round selection in the 2020 draft and the team's second-round pick in 2021.
Gusev, 27, was originally drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning but has never played an NHL game. Instead, the Russian stayed in his home country and developed into one of the KHL's top stars, leading Russia's top professional league with 82 points last season. He also regularly represents his country in international competition and scored 16 points in 10 games during the 2019 Men's IIHF World Championships.
Vegas acquired the rights to Gusev's NHL contract during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The team signed the playmaking forward to a one-year, entry-level contract on April 17, 2019; however, his one-year contract expired after the season, making him a restricted free agent.
“We did our best to accommodate Nikita and his salary request but were unable to do so. He is a good person, a good player and we wish him well in New Jersey,” said Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee in a statement. “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.”
The trade and subsequent contract signing gives the Devils another offensive weapon on the left wing to pair with either of the team's young centers in Hughes or Nico Hischier. Gusev is an assist machine and racked up 65 helpers in 2018-19 — 79% of his total points production. Those numbers likely won't be as high against tougher competition in the NHL, but Gusev should still offer quality offense.
According to CapFriendly, New Jersey has $12,445,000 remaining in salary cap space for the 2019-20 season after Monday's transactions.