One of my more recent articles focused on some of the remaining UFAs the New York Islanders could go after. It received pretty mixed reviews, with a good portion of readers saying they’d prefer the Islanders to instead just save the cap space and not spend it on a middle-six forward. Hey, fair enough. New York missed out on top talent and it’s true that at this point adding a remaining UFA is a consolation prize, just picking from who’s left rather than getting the player they’ve been waiting for.
That being said, the Islanders need to find a way to add scoring. A major problem with adding one of the remaining UFAs like Dzingel, Ferland, etc. is that they come with term. If Ryan Dzingel was willing to take a two-year deal at around $4.5 or $5M AAV rather than a four or five-year deal, it would get a much more positive reaction (or so I assume). So here’s an interesting scenario…
With Vegas in a cap crunch, it looks like former KHL star Nikita Gusev may be on his way out before even playing a game with the Golden Knights. According to Igor Eronko, Gusev is looking for a two-year deal with a $4M AAV and Vegas isn’t prepared to meet that. Despite there being a small risk factor in giving money to someone who’s never played an NHL game, it's something the Islanders should look into.
All signs point to Gusev being a legitimate top-six forward in the NHL. His situation is similar to that of Artemi Panarin and Evgeni Dadonov– both spent time in Russia before coming to the NHL, bringing with them a reputation before finding NHL stardom. Here are Gusev’s KHL numbers compared to those of Dadonov and Panarin, broken down into goals and points per 82 games:
22yo KHL season
Gusev: 31.3 G/82, 55.2 P/82 (2014-15)
Panarin: 32.2 G/82, 80.4 P/82 (2013-14)
24yo KHL season
Dadonov: 22.8 G/82, 44.0 P/82 (2013-14)
Gusev: 34.5 G/82, 102.1 P/82 (2016-17)
25yo KHL season
Dadonov: 29.4 G/82, 71.2 P/82 (2014-15)
Gusev: 33.4 G/82, 94.1 P/82 (2017-18)
26yo KHL season
Dadonov: 32.0 G/82, 63.9 P/82 (2015-16)
Gusev: 22.5 G/82, 108.5 P/82 (2018-19)
Though his numbers weren’t quite as good as Panarin’s, Gusev beat Dadonov in goals per 82 games in three of the four categories, while producing much higher points per 82 averages in all four categories. Remember that Dadonov has averaged 70 points per 82 games in each of his two seasons since heading to Florida.
Acquiring Gusev would mean New York is shipping out picks and prospects but if the Islanders are able to land him, the contract he’s demanding could be an ideal situation for the team. He’s only 27 years old and giving him a short-term deal takes the risk factor away, allowing the Islanders to get a look at what Gusev can do before committing long-term. Essentially it’s like signing one of those remaining UFAs for the $4M or so asking price, except the Islanders would get double the player while only committing for half the term.
How likely is it that the Islanders could swing a deal for Gusev? Who knows. They haven’t been rumoured to be after him but something could always come out of left field. If Lou Lamoriello was to pick up the phone to try and add scoring though, Vegas could be a good starting point.