According to Yuriy Nikolayev, the agent that represents Nikita Gusev in Russia, a deadline has been set. If the Golden Knights do not sign or trade Gusev by this date, the Russian forward will return to the KHL.
Vegas hasn’t traded forward Nikita Gusev to another club yet, although I know there have been offers. I am constantly in touch with a company representing Nikita’s interests in North America. Vegas knows Nikita’s preferences and wishes. Now the ball is on their side. The rights to Gusev in the KHL belong to SKA St. Petersburg. There is a certain deadline, after which I will be forced to go to specific negotiations with the “army” club (SKA St. Petersburg). –Yuriy Nikolayev to Championat.com
Gusev’s North American agent is J.P. Barry of CAA. It is common for Russian players to have different agents for each league. One to represent them in the NHL and another to represent them in the KHL.
Whenever news comes out of agents it is important to consider motive. First and foremost, the agents are looking out for the best interest of their client. Gusev clearly wants to play in the NHL and it appears both Nikolayev and Barry are trying to make that a reality.
However, there’s always a purpose behind a threat. Nikolayev mentioned a specific date (would be nice if we knew that date) at which he will be “forced” to start negotiating with SKA St. Petersburg. Whether that date is something set by the KHL or if it’s been arbitrarily set by Gusev’s camp it certainly feels like another negotiation ploy to put even more pressure on the Golden Knights.
Then there’s money. If Gusev signs in the NHL, does Nikolayev get any compensation? Does he benefit more financially if Gusev signs again in the KHL? These are questions I do not currently have answers to but certainly could impact the decision for Nikolayev to put out this threat.
Yet again, the Nikita Gusev saga continues to get more and more complicated and there seems to be no end in sight.
On Wednesday the Vancouver Canucks signed Micheal Ferland to a four-year deal with an AAV of $3.5 million per year. Ferland is winger who plays a 200-foot game, forechecks hard, plays in all situations, and has the ability to play up and down a lineup.
Fast forward to free agency, when Ferland was looking for a new contract as a UFA, and somehow, once again, the Golden Knights were in the mix.
I like Ferland, the only question you have about him is his health, his injuries, but there was a lot of interest in him. I heard Calgary was in on him, I heard Vegas was in on him, someone told me St. Louis was very interested in Ferland and Vancouver gave him the 4th year and they got him. Of all the guys who waited later, I think he was the guy who most teams were interested in. –Elliotte Friedman, 31 Thoughts Podcast
With what money?
Of course, we aren’t sure exactly what the Golden Knights offered, but it’s reasonable to think it was somewhere in the $2-$4 million ballpark. The exact range the Golden Knights are looking at with Nikita Gusev.
If they were willing to sign Ferland, they must have had a plan to make another move to offset the cost against the salary cap.
It makes sense why the Golden Knights would be interested as he’s essentially a safer Gusev. He’s done it year in and year out, plus he’s much more of a stylistic fit for Gerard Gallant than Gusev appears to be. But again, if they had an interest in him, there must be a blueprint to sign a 3rd line wing between the range of $2-$4 million.
Signing Ferland would have almost certainly meant the departure of Gusev, but missing out may signal something else. The offseason now rolls on, and the Gusev situation just keeps getting weirder and weirder without any conclusion seemingly in sight.
Nikita Gusev’s contract resolution is the great mystery of the 2019 offseason. Reportedly, both sides would like a two-year deal with Gusev looking for $4 million per year and the Golden Knights wanting $2 million.
He’s arguably the best hockey player in the world to have never stepped foot on NHL ice. He might be Vadim Shipachyov. He might be Nikita Kucherov. He’s probably somewhere in between.
His situation is unique though as he’s a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. However, his ability (willingness) to return to the KHL leaves the Golden Knights in danger of walking away with nothing if a deal is not reached.
The eventual outcome of the negotiation will likely determine where Gusev ends up playing next season. If it’s closer to $2 million, he’s probably a Golden Knight, but if it’s pushing $4 million, he might end up being sent away via trade.
Since June 1st, 18 players have signed NHL contracts between $2-4 million AAV. They range from ages 22 to 35 including RFAs, RFAs with arbitration rights, and UFAs.
Nikita Gusev has never played a game in the NHL. There’s no getting around that. But Nikita Gusev was not dropped onto the Golden Knights from some other unknown planet.
Gusev won the MVP award in the KHL, the world’s second-best league, each of the past two years. He led the league in points in 2018-19 by 13. He broke the record for assists in a season with 64. He’s been more than a point per game player for four years running. He’s won a Gagarin Cup and he’s scored 68 points in 66 playoff games. He even shredded as a kid, scoring 192 points in 120 games in the Russian Junior league, the MHL.
Gusev helped Russia win the gold medal in the Olympics a year ago, scoring the game-tying goal (and the one before it) in the gold medal game and assisting on the game-winner and led the tournament in points.
He scored 16 points in the IIHF World Championships this summer, second only to William Nylander, matching Nikita Kucherov and Jakob Voracek, and outdoing Mark Stone and he’s put up 1.11 points per game in all international competition.
In 2011 at the World Junior Championships, Gusev scored nine points in seven games, which was outdone by only five players (two of which are Mark Stone and Evgeny Kuznetsov).
Literally, every place this guy has played hockey, he’s scored. And he’s done it alongside or against hundreds of players that have played in the NHL, and have had massive success.
In World Juniors his numbers matched Clayton Keller (2016), Auston Matthews (2015), Matthew Tkachuk (2015), William Nylander (2014), Filip Fosberg (2013), Anthony Mantha (2013), Nikita Kucherov (2012), Mark Scheifele (2012), Johnny Gaudreau (2012), Mark Stone (2011), and Jason Zucker (2011).
All of those guys are either bonafide NHL stars or on their way to becoming one.
In international play, his numbers compare to Alexander Radulov, Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin, Leon Draisaitl, Anze Kopitar, Mats Zuccarello, and William Nylander.
Over the course of the last week, the Golden Knights signed William Karlsson, traded Erik Haula and Colin Miller, and participated sparingly in the opening of free agency. Following each of those four events, George McPhee took to the podium to meet with the media.
Nikita Gusev, the one major piece missing to the Golden Knights puzzle, was a focus throughout each of the four meetings. He remains unsigned and rumors have begun swirling about the eventual outcome of his contract negotiations.
Most of the rumors have stemmed from what McPhee had to say about Gusev during those press conferences. So, instead of trying to read between the lines of every word, I’m simply going to present every word McPhee said, in chronological order, about trades, contracts, and Gusev.
Tuesday, June 25th (Karlsson extension)
Well, we are going to have to make a few moves. We’ve planned for that and we’re going through that exercise right now and when we’re done we’ll talk about it and explain it. -McPhee
The plan was to build the team as best we could, every once in a while you get tight on the cap in this business, we’re there now. We’ll manage it and we will hopefully be in a much better place going forward with lots of cap space if we ever need it. -McPhee
Thursday, June 27th (Haula trade)
Well, I mentioned the other day that we have to make a few moves, but the moves that we’re going to make when we make them are hockey moves. It has to be a good hockey trade for us. Lots of names have been discussed, other teams have called on lots of different players. -McPhee
Did having Gusev here allow you a little more flexibility to move a winger like Haula? -Media
Um, yeah, I guess so. And again we’ll see where things go in the next few days, but we made a move yesterday and there’s probably another one coming and we’ll talk about that when it happens. -McPhee
There is a lot of activity right now. It’s a busy time of the year and there are a lot of teams talking about lots of different things. I would expect that next week we will reveal a lot of signings of free agents and other trades.
As kids growing up in Russia, the pair of Nikita Gusev and Nikita Kucherov first played together at the age of 15 for a team called the White Bears. Both undersized players, coach Gennady Kurdin took them in and urged them to use their skating and passing to unlock defenses. Quickly, they became unstoppable.
They then moved on together to play for CSKA Moskow of the KHL. Kucherov eventually to the leap of faith heading across the Atlantic ocean to play in the QMJHL where he would become a 2nd round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft while Gusev stayed in Russia where he went from an undersized castoff to the best player in the KHL.
Following MVP campaigns in their respective league, this summer the pair reunited to play for Team Russia in the IIHL World Championships and lit the world on fire.
He’s a skilled player, smart player that can make plays. We played together as kids and it was nice to get back together and we had that chemistry back. He’s a fun guy to play with and a fun guy to be around. We’ve known each other for a long time and it’s easy to talk and easy to hang out with him. He’s just a great guy. -Kucherov
Kucherov and Gusev accounted for 10 goals, 32 points, and a +23 rating in six games together. They ranked #2 and #3 in scoring in the tournament and were the talk of the tournament.
This year, Gusev will try to match Kucherov’s success in the NHL playing his first year with the Golden Knights.
We’ll see what’s going to happen, but I wish him luck and I wish him the best. He’s my good friend and Vegas is going to be happy to have him. -Kucherov
Gusev said the reason he decided to leave his home country to come to North America was that he wanted to play against the best in the world. You would think in making that decision he would lean on his friend, the best player in that best league, for advice. But according to Kucherov, that wasn’t necessary.
He won the Olympic Gold Medal, I should be asking him for advice, not him asking me. -Kucherov
Hopefully, the skill levels translate for Vegas’ Nikita as well as it has for Tampa’s.
With the calendar turning over from May to June it means the Golden Knights can officially begin negotiations with Nikita Gusev and Jimmy Schuldt who signed entry-level contracts late in the 2018-19 season.
This contract will expire June 1 and then we get working on the second deal. You can’t work on that deal now, it’s a circumvention of the salary cap. So to get him in here it burns the entry-level part of his contract so he can get into a different level of contract in the summer. -McPhee speaking about Gusev on 4/14/19
Gusev and Schuldt are both restricted free agents. Gusev has arbitration rights while Schuldt does not.
The first step in the process for restricted free agents is for the team to extend a qualifying offer. By doing this, they retain control on the player. The player then can either sign that offer or the two sides can negotiate a different deal.
Both Gusev and Schuldt received the largest entry-level salary possible which means they will each be extended equal qualifying offers. According to CapFriendly.com, that offer will be a two-way contract with an NHL salary of $874,125.
It’s unlikely either player signs the qualifying offer. Gusev can, and probably will, file for arbitration. Not because he and his agent expect to go to arbitration, but because it will set a deadline on their negotiation (sometime between the last two weeks of July and the first week of August).
Schuldt will likely take the Shea Theodore path of not signing the qualifying offer and negotiating a longer-term deal. However, due to a relative lack of bargaining power, Schuldt’s shouldn’t last into training camp like Theodore’s did a year ago.
Where might both of those contracts land? Well, let’s go to the history books.
Schuldt’s deal is much easier to look at because we have a few recent situations similar to his.
“The only thing I know for myself – I want to play there” -Gusev
As of this moment, Nikita Gusev is a restricted free agent under Golden Knights control. He’s also currently shredding the IIHF World Championships with his linemate, and best friend (more on that later), Nikita Kucherov.
From his next contract, to how he liked Vegas, to his connection to Vadim Shipachyov, the list of questions surrounding the newest Golden Knight are endless. Luckily, a pair of Russian reporters had an extended sit down with Gusev where they pretty much ran the gamut.
(The article was written by Igor Eronko and Alexey Shevchenko for Sports-Express.ru. It can be found in its entirety here. We have used all of our resources to translate it as accurately as possible, but be aware that nuance is often lost in translation.)
ES.ru: You have burnt a year of your contract, do you already have any offers from Vegas for next season?
Gusev: I’m waiting and expecting an offer from them. I liked it there: good guys, good team. And the city. I don’t know who would not like it, the city is really good. And the atmosphere at the stadium, I think, is one of the best, as everyone says.
ES.ru: Vadim Shipachyov did not like the smoky hotels, casinos, and lobbies.
Gusev: In fact, there are many places like this. But if you play in Vegas, you’ll be renting a house or an apartment instead of living in the casinos. Yes, sometimes you have to pass by, but I don’t think very often. I didn’t sit where it was smoky.
ES.ru: Vadim never gambled in the casino, did you?
Gusev: Yes, I played one time.
ES.ru: Did you win?
Gusev: No, I do not like roulette.
Gusev: Yes. I will not say that I played for big money though. I went there with roughly 100 dollars with me. I won a bit and enjoyed it but I never planned to continue.
ES.ru: A lot of people were concerned when head coach Gerard Gallant said, “I don’t know any Gusev. Let him come, but nobody guarantees him anything.” Didn’t that bother you?
Gusev: No, of course not. I went there and knew what was waiting for me. That’s why I didn’t see any problems. I understood. I was going to the NHL and had to prove my place on the ice. It so happened that I did not play. So, next season.
ES.ru: Did you talk to Gallant himself?
Gusev: No. He never spoke to me. I only talked to the general manager, George McPhee. I didn’t talk to my coach before I got there. He had a lot of work to do, with the playoffs and such.
ES.ru: Shipachyov was given freedom during training (practice), but as soon as the games began they said that some things were prohibited to do. Are you afraid of the same?
Gusev: When I signed the contract and could play for Vegas the coach showed me the tactics during a class. And I realized that I would feel good about it. Everything was explained to me in a similar way. There will be no problems.
ES.ru: Vegas is a team with almost the largest amount of movement (other possible translation: speed or quickness) in the NHL. Do you like running without a puck?
Gusev: I’m not going to tell you all the secrets of Vegas. Maybe I’m not the fastest player, but there are other guys out there too that aren’t that quick. What I saw is that many hockey players act very cleverly.
ES.ru: Like Mark Stone and Reilly Smith?
Gusev: That’s right.
ES.ru: But nevertheless, Shipachyov’s situation could repeat with you.
Gusev: Everyone has their own lives. I do not know what and how it will work, but I think that I am able to perform what the coaches want. If they tell me something definite to do, I’ll do it. At the same time, I’m going to continue to play the way I play.
ES.ru: What do you think of Stone, Smith, and the other NHL players? Nothing special, right?
Gusev: This is the wrong question. Those guys are very good, but I understand that it is easy to play with them, everything will be well in this regard.
ES.ru: Can Vegas trade you?
Gusev: I’m expecting an offer from them first. And then we will see what happens. In principle, there could be other offers, but I think it would be wrong to accept one of them because Vegas helped me. I want to reciprocate. In the NHL the rules say that first I have to get an offer from the club which has the rights to me, which is Vegas. I am a rule follower so I will wait for it. I perfectly understand what I want and what I need.
ES.ru: If Vegas offers $4 million, will you accept?
The Golden Knights are currently in the midst of a hard-fought playoff series with the budding rival San Jose Sharks. The series shifts to Vegas tonight for a pivotal Game 3, yet the story of the day isn’t about penalties, forechecking, goaltending, or anything else on the ice. Instead, it’s about a brand new player being added to a team that won the Western Conference Championship a year ago and are on the path to potentially doing so again.
Nikita Gusev’s season ended in the KHL a few days ago, he quickly terminated the final few days of his contract with SKA St. Petersburg so he could board a plane to the United States and join his new team, the Golden Knights. The 26-year-old forward is the reigning MVP of the KHL and racked up 82 points in 62 games before tacking on another 19 in 18 playoff games.
There’s no question, eventually, Gusev could be a high-end NHL player and a true difference maker for the Golden Knights, but from the outside looking in, the timing of his arrival can be viewed as a major distraction.
Whether it’s simply having another face in the room, a new body on the practice rink, or the locker-room dynamic of him pushing a player who has worked all season long to get to this point out of the lineup, there’s no shortage of reasons why this could blow up in the face of the Golden Knights.
However, Vegas is confident they are able to pull something like this off for one main reason.
I believe in my organization fully, they’ve done great things since the beginning, so let’s see how it goes. -Jonathan Marchessault
The Golden Knights have only been a team since June of 2016. They’ve only had players since June of the following year, and they haven’t yet completed their second season as an NHL franchise. Yet, from a player’s perspective, there’s no reason not to have complete confidence that whatever the management of this team does, it will help them achieve the ultimate goal.
I’ve yet to find out that I wasn’t happy with anything they’ve done so far. Obviously, we are a young organization but every decision that they’ve made (has been good). There’s a lot of brainpower up there. With the way we’ve been doing so far in the short life that we have as an organization, I think they’ve done an unbelievable job so I’m not going to start questioning anything. -Pierre-Edoard Bellemare
From Expansion Draft laughingstock to #1 in the league by January, to winning the Pacific Division, to raising a Western Conference Champions banner, to backing it up by cruising to a playoff berth a year later, it’s literally been about as perfect a franchise as one could be.
We always make the right decisions. -Gerard Gallant
This belief means everything.
The trust in the organization runs from the man at the top, The Creator, down through the GM, the front office, the coaching staff, and all the way to the players.
That trust is why Nikita Gusev can be plopped down into a locker room of a team two games into a playoff series. Everyone truly believes that anything and everything this team does will work. Rather than question it, they accept it, believe it, and in many cases embrace it.
Gusev may not play, but if he does, it’ll be because the organizational dynamic allows it. Not every franchise could pull something like this off, because not every franchise can point to a fairy tale and call it the reality.
We trust in our organization and in each other. Everyone from top to bottom will handle it the right way, and know how to be professional about it. -Jon Merrill
This should be risky, but for this team, it’s not, and who knows, it’ll probably end up working out perfectly.
The Golden Knights have signed 26-year old forward Nikita Gusev to a one-year entry-level contract. Gusev was the MVP of the KHL last season and will likely win the award for this season when it is handed out.
Gusev is eligible to play in the playoffs for the Golden Knights because he was on Vegas’ “Reserve List” at the Trade Deadline.
He’ll join our group tomorrow and we’ll see where it goes. I’m not going to make any promises either way right now. I like our team, we’ve played with our team all year. If we think we need him to put in the lineup we’ll see where it goes, but we are a ways from that right now. -Gerard Gallant
I’m not going to use his play in the KHL but I know he’s a very high-end player, he’s a good hockey player and we’ll see what he does in practice and we’ll see how things go. But I’m very comfortable with my lineup right now and we’ll do the job the way we are going to do the job. He’s another player to our team and that’s what really makes it good. We don’t need him right now but we’ll see where it goes. -Gallant