The Vegas Golden Knights announced they have officially signed KHL star Nikita Gusev to a one-year, entry-level deal. That one year deal will be burned this season, which should allow the team to sign him to a long-term extension next season when he’ll be a restricted free agent. The deal is for $925K, including a $92,500 signing bonus, according to CapFriendly.
Gusev is expected to join the Golden Knights in practice Monday and could possibly join the team for Game 4, although nothing has been decided about if/when he will play, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal’s David Schoen. Head coach Gerard Gallant said that he’s comfortable with his current lineup and they don’t need Gusev in this series, but he’ll see where things go, according to Schoen.
Because he was on the team’s reserve list, Gusev is eligible to join the team for the playoffs, but whether Gusev will actually play for the team on such an already loaded roster when he lacks much experience playing on North American rinks is another questions. The Golden Knights are expected to have a press conference later today and will discuss their plans for him then.
Gusev, perhaps the best player in the KHL this past season and arguably the best player in the world outside of the NHL, is coming off a big year with SKA St. Petersburg where he scored 17 goals, but had a career-high 82 points in 62 games. He has scored 119 goals in the KHL over the course of his career and 337 points over nine seasons. He was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round back in the 2012 draft, but many felt that Gusev might never come to North America as he seemed content playing in the KHL. That led to Tampa Bay sending the now-26-year-old to the Vegas Golden Knights as part of an expansion draft trade in which the Golden Knights also took on the contract of veteran defenseman Jason Garrison.
Regardless, it’s a huge signing for the Golden Knights, who could conceivably match the highly skilled stickhandler and passer to their third line next to Cody Eakin and Alex Tuch. Even if he doesn’t play, the addition only give the Golden Knights even more depth for the franchise.