Devils acquire Gusev from Vegas for draft picks

The New Jersey Devils continued their summer upgrade on Monday, trading a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021 for left wing Nikita Gusev of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Knights brought Gusev, 27, over from the Russian Kontinental Hockey League for the Stanley Cup playoffs last season, but he didn't see any action. Gusev became a restricted free agent, and it became clear to Vegas that his asking price and their offer -- reported to be $2 million apart -- weren't in sync.

"When you have a roster comprised of players who are deserving of a certain salary range, you are not always able to make room for everyone. This is the reality of having a good team in the salary-cap world," said general manager George McPhee.

As they did in acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban from the Nashville Predators, the Devils utilized their cap space in landing a pricey asset. Gusev signed a two-year deal with New Jersey worth $4.5 million against the salary cap, a significant investment for a player who hasn't appeared yet in the NHL.

There are reasons to believe Gusev will thrive, however. He spent the 2018-19 season with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL, where he totaled 17 goals and 65 assists for 82 points with 10 penalty minutes and a plus-39 rating in 62 games. He led the KHL in assists and points and was selected to his fourth KHL all-star game.

In his KHL career, Gusev totaled 332 points in 391 games, had 119 goals and won the league MVP award in 2017-18. He also had 34 points in 24 games at the IIHF worlds and 12 points in six games at the 2018 Winter Olympics, where he won gold.

With Devils star Taylor Hall holding down the top-line spot at left wing, Gusev could slot in on the second line with center Jack Hughes, taken as the first overall draft pick in June. New Jersey has now added Subban, Hughes, Gusev and winger Wayne Simmonds this summer.

As for the Knights, they now own nine picks in the first three rounds of the next two NHL drafts.