The New Jersey Devils are going to sell the farm at the NHL Trade Deadline if the other teams in the league allow them. They have 11 NHL players that will be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season. Some will come with pretty significant interest from the rest of the league. The one with the most interest is Kyle Palmieri, and we wrote about him yesterday, but one of the most intriguing trade prospects is Nikita Gusev.
Gusev has not been the player the Devils hoped to be getting when they sent the Vegas Golden Knights two picks then signed him to a $9 million contract. He was coming off a season where he was the KHL MVP, and he was considered the best player that wasn’t in the NHL.
Nikita Gusev could be an interesting piece at the NHL Trade Deadline.
Immediately, he never found a spot in the lineup and his defense really suffered. The Devils tried pairing him with Jack Hughes at first, but they never really got chemistry together. Now, he’s toiling in and out of the lineup. There’s no chemistry between him and any linemates, and the only time he even makes a small impact on the game is the power play, which hasn’t been very good.
He has a positive CF% at 5v5. However, his HDCF% is terrible. It’s historically terrible. Just to give some perspective, his line has had 157 total chances on net, but only 14 have been of the high-danger variety. On the other side, Gusev has been on the ice for 146 total chances against at 5v5, and 42 have been high-danger chances. It isn’t all Gusev’s fault, but nobody on the Devils is even close to these numbers.
Gusev is a clear change of scenery guy, but his numbers are scary bad. A team might be willing to take a flier on him for a mid-to-late-round pick. That could open up the market for teams that wouldn’t usually be buying at this point. Think of the Wayne Simmonds deal last season. The Buffalo Sabres were a strange fit, but it only cost a 5th-round pick, so they decided it was worth a shot.
Which teams could be looking to find lightning in a bottle with Gusev? He has talent, but it never worked in New Jersey. It could work somewhere else, but he has to find the right fit.