April 2: All three players have cleared waivers and can be assigned to their respective taxi squads or minor league teams.
April 1: The waiver wire has some interesting names on it today, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that Tyler Ennis of the Edmonton Oilers, Nikita Gusev of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Luff of the Los Angeles Kings have all been placed on waivers. The trio of forwards are available for claim by the rest of the league.
Gusev’s name will stand out among the group, given how recently he was considered an up-and-coming name in the NHL. The 28-year-old made a splashy debut for the Devils last season, scoring 44 points in 66 games after signing a two-year, $9MM deal. The Devils only had his rights in the first place after trading second and third-round picks to the Vegas Golden Knights, a deal they might want to reverse if they had the chance.
In 20 games this season, Gusev has just five points and has received 16 or more minutes of ice time just twice. Since the beginning of March he has registered just one point and played a season-low 8:41 just a few games ago. With his $4.5MM cap hit that just isn’t cutting it, meaning the end to his Devils career might be coming quickly. Gusev is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the team has several top forward prospects pushing for roster spots. One of them, the recently-signed Tyce Thompson, joined practice today for the first time. While it seems very unlikely that Gusev will be claimed, perhaps a deal could be made with a team should the Devils be willing to eat some of his cap hit. Clearing waivers would make him a more desirable trade asset, since he will be able to be placed on the taxi squad.
Ennis has been here before, clearing waivers in January for the Oilers. The undersized forward is a useful player, but one that can only fit certain roles. For Edmonton, room was needed on the active roster and under the salary cap to add Alex Stalock, who will serve as additional goalie depth down the stretch. Given Ennis has already cleared once, the chance of claim this time around remains low.
Luff started the year on injured reserve and has played just 11 games for the Kings, but doesn’t represent much offensive upside anyway. The 23-year-old winger went undrafted and has made it to the NHL after grinding it out in the minor leagues, but has just one point this season. His contract is a two-way deal worth $700K, which means he might actually draw the most interest on the wire, but just like most of the other skaters this season is more likely to clear and be assigned to the taxi squad.