New Jersey Devils: Nikita Gusev Can Still Find An NHL Fit

The New Jersey Devils are ending the Nikita Gusev era without getting anything in return. Despite the fact that they still have to give up this year’s 2nd-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights, Gusev was placed on waivers with the purpose of ending his contract prematurely, as has been reported by The Athletic’s Corey Masisak.

That means Gusev can sign with any team in the NHL. He was awful this season. Some statistics show him as literally the worst player in the NHL. Obviously, he can be much better than that. He ended last season on an absolute heater. He finished the season with 44 points in 66 games despite getting off to a slow start. After December 1st, he had 33 points through the rest of the season. He was probably the Devils most consistent scorer.

This season, he just didn’t fit in the Lindy Ruff system. It didn’t work due to the style of play Gusev brings. Ruff said something of that fact at Friday’s press conference before the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“We wanted to play a real fast, a real quick game. I think there were times (Gusev) wanted to bring it back… In the end, young players just took over.”

It’s clear that this was a fit thing over a talent issue. Gusev showed he was an NHL player last season. This season, something just didn’t work. Maybe it was playing the entire schedule against the East Division, where teams like the Boston Bruins, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Islanders play so physical that it tears certain players down.

Gusev could fit a team like Pittsburgh, which likes to hem teams in their zone and fire shots at the net, or ironically Vegas, who could use a little extra firepower for the price of basically free. We don’t know the circumstances that led to Gusev getting released. Maybe he asked for it, or maybe the Devils just saw no other better option. Either way, a team is going to get a flyer that’s worth the price.