Like with many Russian players, the Nikita Gusev contract situation is a difficult one. From how I understand it (and I could be wrong, but I shall show my work with all CBA excepts cited available at the end of this article), the Golden Knights have two options with Gusev.
But before we get to those options, let’s explain some things first. First off, Nikita Gusev was drafted by the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2012 but never signed a contract. Thus, he remains property of the Golden Knights indefinitely. (Kelly McCrimmon recently confirmed this on the VGK Insider Show)
Next, Gusev was born on July 8th, 1992. He is 26-years-old. Per the CBA Article 9.1 (c), Gusev is required to adhere to the NHL’s “entry-level system” if he signs a contract prior to turning 28. Therefore, if Gusev signs an NHL contract this year (2018-19) or next year (2019-20) he would be forced to sign a one-year contract with a max value of $925,000. (CBA 9.3 a)
There are some performance and signing bonuses possible, which do count against the salary cap, that could allow Gusev to earn an extra $825,000. The signing bonus is probable, which can be up to 10% or $92,500 (CBA 9.3 b). However, most of them are unlikely as Gusev would have to be an extraordinary player to receive these bonuses. Such options are 20+ goals, 35+ assists, and .73+ points per game. (CBA Exhibit 5-Performance Bonuses)
So, it’s reasonable to believe Gusev’s entry-level contract will be less than $1,000,000 against the Golden Knights cap.
Which brings us back to when to sign him and the two options.
Option 1: If Gusev were to sign prior to the Golden Knights season ending, he would earn a pro-rated portion one-year entry-level contract for as long as he’s with the NHL club. The contract would end when the Golden Knights 2018-19 season concludes, thus it would “burn” his entry-level contract requirement. Gusev would not qualify as an unrestricted free agent (CBA 10.2 a, i). Instead, he would become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. (See CBA 12.1 A)
Option 2: If Gusev waits until after the Golden Knights season ends, he would once again have to sign the one-year entry-level contract worth a maximum of $925,000. However, when the year is up, he will be 27-years-old and thus qualify as an unrestricted free agent. (See CBA 10.2 a)
This is where it gets incredibly tricky for the Golden Knights as both options have major benefits but also massive potential drawbacks. I’ll break it down the way I was taught by my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Pope, using a pros and cons list.
- Gusev would be under contract as soon as March 6th (His current team trails 2-1 in a best-of-seven series)
- Gusev would be an RFA upon his contract’s end, thus keeping him under VGK control
- Gusev could sign a longer-term deal as soon as July 1, 2019
- Gusev would be eligible to play for VGK immediately and participate in the playoffs
- Gusev would earn a larger sum of money quicker by foregoing the ELC year, which is likely what he is looking to do
- The ELC year would be wasted and Gusev’s cap hit would likely be larger than $925,000 in 2019-20 when VGK has less cap space
- If Gusev chooses to return to Russia, VGK loses his rights upon return. (CBA 10.2 (b) (ii) (A) (4))
- Gusev’s cap hit would be around $1,000,000 in 2019-20
- Gusev becomes a UFA following the one season, making him eligible to leave Vegas without VGK getting anything in return
All of this is, of course, hinging on the situation that SKA St. Petersburg’s season ends prior to the Golden Knights. If SKA wins the Gagarin Cup, Gusev could be playing until April 25th at the latest. The NHL playoffs begin on April 8th or 9th.
If I had to guess, I’d suspect the Golden Knights could simply wait until the offseason, choose Option 2, and take the risk they can re-sign him prior to him hitting free agency on July 1, 2020. Also, if I had a guess, there’s probably a loophole or two in the CBA that I’m missing that will crop up if/when Gusev does indeed choose to come to North America.
Even if they do intend on going down the path of Option 1, I find it unlikely they’ll throw him in the fire instantly. The different size ice surface (Russia plays on the larger international size) makes a major impact in players’ transition to North America and the NHL. So, as much as it would be an amazingly fun story, I wouldn’t bet much on Gusev suiting up in a meaningful game for the Golden Knights this season. Next year though, that’s a completely different story.
So, there you have it, that’s the best I can do on the Gusev situation. It’s unique,
9.1 (c) Notwithstanding the chart set forth in (b) above, a Player who at the time he was drafted was playing for a team outside North America or who meets the qualifications set forth in Article 8.4(a)(v) (a “European Player”) who signs his first SPC at ages 25-27 shall be subject to the Entry Level System for one (1) year. A European Player who signs his first SPC at age 28 or older is not subject to the Entry Level System under any circumstances.
(a) The maximum annual aggregate Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, Signing Bonuses and games played bonuses permitted to be paid to a Group 1 Player in each League Year of his first SPC shall be as follows:
Draft Year – Compensation
2005 – US$ 850,000
2006 – US$ 850,000
2007 – US$ 875,000
2008 – US$ 875,000
2009 – US$ 900,000
2010 – US$ 900,000
2011 – 2022 – US$ 925,000
(b) The aggregate of all Signing Bonuses attributable to any League Year to be paid to a Group 1 Player may not exceed 10% of the Player’s compensation for such League Year. Games played bonuses attributable to a League Year shall be included in compensation for that League Year at their full potential value (i.e., assuming all such bonuses are earned) and shall be treated as Paragraph 1 NHL Salary. A Group 1 Player may not contract for or receive any bonuses whatsoever other than a Signing Bonus, a games played bonus and Exhibit 5 Bonuses.
10.2 (a) (i) Any Player who either has seven (7) Accrued Seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of a League Year, shall, if his most recent SPC has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 30 of such League Year or June 30 of any prior League Year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent. Such Player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction, or being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.
10.2 (b) (ii) (A) (4) the Player, having become a Defected Player pursuant to Section 10.2(b)(i)(B), and having played no more than two (2) full seasons with an unaffiliated club(s), has become free of any obligation to such unaffiliated club(s) during the off season and has not, prior to thirty days thereafter, entered into a valid SPC for a period which includes the current and/or following season for his services as a professional hockey player with the Club which last had the NHL rights to negotiate with such Player;
12.1 Eligibility for Player or Club Election of Salary Arbitration.
(a) A Player is eligible for salary arbitration if the Player meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart and in Section 12.1(b) below:
First SPC Signing Age 18-20 4 years professional experience
21 – 3 years professional experience
22-23 – 2 years professional experience
24 and older – 1 year professional experience
Exhibit 5- Performance Bonuses
(1) Individual “A” Bonuses Paid by Clubs
The maximum amount payable for any single category of Individual “A” Bonuses identified below is $212,500 per season. (For example, an Entry Level SPC may not contain bonuses of $212,500 for 20 goals and an additional $212,500 for 30 goals, provided, however, it may contain a bonus of $100,000 for 20 goals and $112,500 for 30 goals). An Entry Level SPC may contain any number of Individual “A” Bonuses; however, a Player may not receive more than $850,000 in total aggregate Individual “A” Bonuses per season. Individual “A” Bonuses are payable by the Clubs (as opposed to the League).
(i) Ice time (aggregate and/or per Game). Player must be among top six (6) forwards on the Club (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played by Player and comparison group). (Note: an Entry Level SPC may contain bonuses for both aggregate and per Game ice time; however, the maximum aggregate amount the Player may receive on account of the ice time category is $212,500.)
(ii) Goals: 20 Goal Minimum
(iii) Assists: 35 Assist Minimum
(iv) Points: 60 Point Minimum
(v) Points Per Game: .73 Points Per Game Minimum (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played)
(vi) Plus-Minus Rating: Among top three (3) forwards on the Club (minimum 42 Regular Season Games played by Player and comparison group).
(vii) End-of-Season NHL All-Rookie Team
(viii) NHL All-Star Game (selected to play or plays)
(ix) NHL All-Star Game MVP
The full CBA can be read here. If you find anything you believe I may have wrong, please do not hesitate to point it out.
Now that the moment has officially come where Tyler Wong is sent away from camp without an NHL contract, it’s come time we really clear up what it means for his future with the Golden Knights or another team. Wong is signed to a standard player contract with the Chicago Wolves, the primary AHL affiliate of the Golden Knights. He is NOT signed to the Golden Knights like players such as Reid Duke, Tomas Hyka, or Keegan Kolesar. However, Vegas is also NOT in any imminent danger of losing him to another team.
Technically, they should be, but looking through the history of the league, and knowing the “good ole boys” network NHL GM’s keep with each other, Wong won’t be signed by any other GM. With the gentleman’s agreement not to poach AHL players off each other’s teams, NHL GM’s can essentially skirt the 50 man maximum contract limit. This is the reason Wong was not given a 2-way contract before he was sent to Chicago.
Whether he was offered a 2-way deal or not, he would have been paid the exact same amount per game for the Wolves, and if/when he gets called up to Vegas, they’ll offer him the same deal they would have today, so his NHL pay would remain the same as well. So, it’s a win-win-win for the Golden Knights, Chicago Wolves, and Wong, assuming no GM goes crazy… which they won’t.
Fear not folks, Tyler Wong may not officially be a Golden Knight, but there’s absolutely no way he’s on another NHL roster without McPhee having his say first.