Sunday: TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reports that the Panthers have indeed signed Gusev to a contract. It will be a one-year deal for $1MM.
“Nikita is a highly skilled and creative forward who plays the game with great speed and playmaking ability,” said Florida general manager Bill Zito. “He has proven himself to be a tremendous offensive talent throughout his career. We are thrilled for Nikita to join the Panthers and look forward to what he can add to our team.”
Saturday: After terminating the end of his contract with the New Jersey Devils, Nikita Gusev is now an unrestricted free agent and able to sign with any team in the league. As long as he signs before Monday’s deadline, he will be eligible to take part in the postseason. That makes it seem likely that Gusev could be a deadline addition for a contender, and tonight Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reported on Hockey Night In Canada that the Florida Panthers are the frontrunner to sign the winger.
Gusev, 28, registered just five points in 20 games this season for the Devils after a strong rookie campaign in 2019-20, and ended up scratched several times near the end of his time in New Jersey. While he worked his way out of Lindy Ruff’s good graces, there’s no doubting his offensive talent. Once considered among the best players outside of the NHL, Gusev recorded 82 points in 62 games during his final season in the KHL. Last season for the Devils he had 44 in 66 games, suggesting a bright future in North America.
As Corey Masisak of The Athletic points out on Twitter, Gusev and his family actually didn’t return to Russia during the offseason—they stayed in Florida. While that obviously doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll sign with the Panthers, Gusev does seem like a strong fit for a team that is trying to get things back on track after a short blip. Florida has lost its last three games, dropping behind the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Central Division standings. They acquired Brandon Montour earlier today to add depth on defense but could use another offensive weapon as well.
Gusev can sign for the league minimum, but the Panthers could actually pay more than that given how much cap room they have. Florida has plenty of wiggle room even without putting Aaron Ekblad on long-term injured reserve, which could be another option if they add more salary in the coming days.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
I get the temptation to add a skilled player for free, but this move seems to have a lot more downside than upside for the Panthers.
Gusev is an east/west player. The Panthers are a north/south team.
Verhaege and Huberdeau are the top 6 wings. Are they moving one of them to RW? Are they moving Gusev to RW? Are they playing Gusev on the third line?
Seems the mostly likely outcome would be disruption to a team that has a good formula going right now.
I’m curious why you would say they are a north-south team when the game is played east -west in order to be a scoring team. The Panthers are a very fast skating team, one of the fastest teams in the NHL when all is healthy. I’m just asking …
I’m not a Panthers expert but whenever I’ve seen them this year, including yesterday, they have played a fast attacking style getting the puck on net and battling as opposed to a more controlled cycling type of system. They moved out skilled but soft players like Dadonov and Hoffman and replaced them (shift) disturbers like Hornqvist and Verhaege and (even though he hasn’t been as good) Duclair.
If Gusev can play RW and move Duclair down, then maybe it works out…but I’ve only seen him listed or play as LW and typically Russian right shots play LW.
Maybe he plays bottom six but on the PP like Spezza, I don’t know. I just don’t think they should change their top six style of play.
Barkov and Gusev. Tricky russians that can light it up…
Barkov is Finnish
S**t he is thanks for the correction.but still i think they will play together…