In case you forgot, the Vegas Golden Knights have one hell of a player stashed away overseas in Russia. No, it’s not Vadim Shipachyov. It’s actually his SKA Saint Petersburg teammate, Nikita Gusev.
Many Knights fans probably remember the show Gusev put on at the Olympics, which was highlighted by his three-point performance in the Gold medal game, but the 25-year-old Russian also lit up the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) this season and was named the league’s MVP earlier this week.
Golden Stick award (KHL Regular season MVP) - Nikita Gusev. pic.twitter.com/GPuJ4hNDVh— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) May 23, 2018
Gusev finished the regular season with 22 goals and 62 points in 54 games. He also registered seven goals and 12 points during 15 playoff games.
To give you an idea of just how good Gusev was this season, only Ilya Kovalchuk, who also plays for SKA Saint Petersburg, finished with more points, 63. Despite being named MVP, though, Gusev actually had a better 2016-17 campaign where he registered 24 goals and 71 points in 57 regular season games. He also chipped in seven goals and 23 points during 18 playoff games that season.
So you’re probably wondering now, “when can we expect to see him with the Knights?”
Well, that’s where things get complicated. Vegas general manager George McPhee admitted last July that it would be “at least a year” until Gusev possibly joined the Knights. While we are almost at the one year mark of McPhee making those comments, we still don’t have much clarity as to what could happen with Gusev.
What we know as of right now is that his contract with SKA has one more year on it — meaning the Knights will continue to own his rights — and it seems like he will remain in the KHL next season. Here’s where things get tricky, though.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, let’s say Gusev doesn’t sign a deal with the Knights this offseason and he waits another year. He would remain the Knights’ property because his 27th birthday falls one week after July 1. The significance of this, however, is that once Gusev turns 27 he is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. But because his birthday is one week after July 1 he wouldn’t obtain UFA status until a week after free agency began. So, if he’s hell bent on playing elsewhere, he could just bide his time in the KHL and wait for one more season.
In case I lost you there with my interpretation of what Friedman explained, here’s what he said exactly in this week’s 31 Thoughts:
But a couple of teams are privately beginning to peek at next spring.
Nikita Gusev’s KHL contract ends, and he’s Vegas property. The tricky thing is Gusev will be one week shy of his 27th birthday on July 1, 2019. So, if he waits an extra year, he can pick his own spot as an unrestricted free agent.
Either way, it’s a complicated matter and, truthfully, we might not ever see Gusev suit up for Vegas. However, if he does one day decide to come play for the Knights, it’s clear the team will be getting an extremely talented player. And if you want to see for yourself just how talented Gusev is, check out these videos below.