This has not been as fun of a summer for Vegas Golden Knights fans compared to a year ago. A longer offseason, salary dumps left and right, and no big free agent acquisitions. Well, at least VGK can look forward to Nikita Gusev. Unfortunately for Knights fans, ‘The Goose’ was traded to the New Jersey Devils for a 2nd and 3rd round pick.
Immediately following the deal, Gusev signed a deal for 4.5 million dollars AAV with the Devils. Ensue punching air.
There are so many aspects to this deal that get Vegas fans upset, and they have every right to be considering Gusev came over to the states from the KHL after he put up one of the most impressive seasons in the history of the league in Russia.
First is the reality of the situation. Vegas simply did not have enough money to dish out what Gusev was commanding, which was $4 million AAV for two years. Vegas had roughly a million dollars in cap space to give Gusev, and still need to sign RFA Jimmy Schuldt, who can very well earn the sixth spot on the blue line this season. Fans and in the media questioned as to why the VGK couldn’t trade either Cody Eakin, Ryan Reaves, or Nick Holden to clear some salary cap.
Simply put, George McPhee did not want to rip the team up to accommodate one player.
“What we didn’t want to do was tear the team apart” McPhee stated in a press conference. “We like the chemistry of the team. We weren’t interested in moving other players.” Keep in mind, this was a summer where the likes of Miller Haula, Bellemare, and Carpenter were all traded away or let go for salary cap reasons. McPhee was not as willingly to keep doing that since he got his team now under the salary cap.
It's going to be so so stupid when the Golden Knights trade Gusev because they don't have room to sign him, but keep Ryan Reaves making $2.78MM on the fourth line.— Brian (@PuckAndBadJokes) July 23, 2019
The question then becomes this, is the combination of Eakin, Holden, and/or Reaves more valuable to the team than what Gusev’s value would’ve been? Nobody knows. Whether they like it or not, the third and fourth line production will constantly be compared to Nikita Gusev’s production this year in New Jersey, more than likely on their second line.
Gusev’s numbers in the KHL were outstanding. In the three seasons he played there, he put 63 goals, and 152 assists. However, there was doubt from George McPhee and company about how that would transfer over to the smaller rink of the NHL.
Some interesting nuggets from McPhee’s chat:— Justin Emerson (@J15Emerson) July 29, 2019
– Gusev’s ask was higher than anticipated
– Didn’t want to trade more players for cap space
– Knew there was a risk he wouldn’t sign when he signed ELC
– Excited for young players to push for roster spots for first time#VegasBorn
In case Knights fans forgot how the last time a Russian player came to the Knights and was supposed to be a top player (Will Vadim Schipychev please stand up?) there is no guarantee he would be a great player. George McPhee was worried about how his physical attributes may hinder his value, being a 5-foot-11 winger and weighing just 181 pounds.
“We think he’s a very, very intelligent player who has good hands, but he’s not a big guy and doesn’t have elite speed,” McPhee added.
What is going to suck is every goal that Gusev puts up, fans are going to say “that could have been with us.” If he turns into a superstar, it will sting for a long time. Fans are pissed at George McPhee for letting go a talented player, and for a 2nd and third round draft pick, there is a good chance those picks won’t pay out to what Gusev will be. Or, the flip side is that McPhee stole this deal yet again, and Gusev will turn out to be a bust. We just don’t know yet.
Fans, who do you think won the trade?— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) July 29, 2019
Devils get: Nikita Gusev (signed to 2-year, $4.5M AAV)
Golden Knights get: 2020 third round pick, and 2021 second round pick. #VegasBorn
Something Knights fans must keep in mind as they are angrily typing their keyboard at George McPhee, and this is something that some are overlooking. Gusev has not played a single game in the NHL, let alone the Golden Knights. The Knights did not lose a spot, considering Gallant could have played Gusev in the first round of the playoffs when he came over, but he didn’t because he liked the team.
Vegas still has a ridiculously good team, and will still compete for the Stanley Cup this year. Only time will tell what this move holds for the VGK, as does any trade, but this deal had to be done unless McPhee traded more players away. I may not like it, but it is understandable. Regardless, this team is still going to be scary good this season. Is it October yet?!?!