GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – FEBRUARY 25: Nikita Gusev of Olympic Athlete from Russia celebrates his goal with teammates during the Men’s Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Germany and Olympic Athlete from Russia on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)

The Vegas Golden Knights signed 26-year-old left winger Nikita Gusev to a one-year, entry-level contract. The contract will expire after the season, in which Gusev will become a restricted free agent.

Over his 9-year KHL career, Gusev has played for CSKA Moscow, Khabarovsk Amur, Khanty-Mansiysk Yugra, and SKA St. Petersburg. He has put up 119 goals and 213 assists for 332 career points in 391 career games. He was originally drafted in the 7th round, 202nd overall of the 2012 NHL draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Gusev was acquired by Vegas for expansion draft considerations.

Last season he scored 17 goals and 65 assists for 82 points in 62 KHL games. He also added 58 minutes in penalties, and finished the season with a +39 rating.

Gusev is notably one of the top talents not playing in the NHL, and that will change. He is a one-time Gagarin Cup champion and an Olympic gold medalist. Gusev has also brought home silver at the 2012 World Junior Championships and bronze at the 2017 World Championships.

What This Means For The Future

Nikita Gusev has the possibility of being a huge factor for the Golden Knights right now and down the road. If Gusev’s elite ability can translate to North American ice, he adds a legitimate offensive threat to an already talented Vegas forward group. Gusev, if anything, gives Vegas tremendous depth throughout their offensive lineup and certainly is a major addition to their lineup.

This is, of course, assuming that Gusev can smoothly translate to the smaller North American ice surface, which he’s never played on before. While he is an elite talent, Vegas knows firsthand how bringing over unproven players from abroad with high expectations can go (see Vadim Shipachyov).

However, assuming things do go smoothly, Gusev is nearing his prime (if not already in it) at 26 years old. He will certainly be looking for a pay raise on his next deal, and looking at the current salary cap situation, it is plausible that Vegas may not be able to afford Gusev’s services.

In the short term, though, Vegas gets a high-risk but high-upside player in Gusev that has the ability to electrify and transform their offense.

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