Florida Panthers Sign Free-Agent Forward Nikita Gusev

Nikita Gusev

After having his contract terminated by the New Jersey Devils, forward Nikita Gusev has found a new home. The Florida Panthers signed the unrestricted free agent to a one-year deal worth $1million.

Panthers Sign Nikita Gusev

Originally a draft pick of the Vegas Golden Knights, the team traded Gusev to the Devils in the summer of 2019. From there the Devils signed Gusev to a two-year contract extension as the team wanted to solidify their top-six forward group. Things started slow for Gusev in his first season with the Devils, but he was able to adjust to the NHL game, but then the pandemic hit. He has struggled this season, having ten months off and needing to adjust to the NHL game again. But there are signs he can be a good player in the league. Unfortunately, his second season in the league was just not good. Gusev found himself on the outs with the Devils. He was a healthy scratch for 13 games before being put on unconditional waivers and having his contract bought out.

So far in his short NHL career, Gusev has recorded 49 points (15 goals and 34 assists) in 86 games played including 13 goals and 33 assists in his rookie season. Everyone expected him to have a breakout season, but he has only five points (two goals and three assists) this season with the Devils. Unfortunately, things have not worked out and with the team and Gusev not engaging in contract talks a trade had to come.

What Gusev Can Bring To The Panthers

In his short time in the NHL, Gusev has shown he is one of the elite passers in the game. His decision-making and vision for the game looked natural. Gusev could find the open man and get the puck into tight situations. Not to mention his skating ability is very good. Nobody expected him to light the world on fire with his goal-scoring. That is not what Gusev is all about. His numbers come in the assist column. In his final KHL season, he had a league-high 82 points (17G, 65A) in 62 regular-season games leading the league in assists. During the KHL playoffs, he recorded 19 points (9G, 10A), which ranked second in the league. 

So the talent is there, unfortunately, it has not translated to the NHL. But given the right situation with the Panthers, he will have the opportunity to showcase his skills. Not to mention the Panthers could use him at the forward position. A team can never have enough offence especially come playoff time. He could turn out to be a difference-maker once the playoffs begin.

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