New Jersey Devils Assistant General Manager Tom Fitzgerald told NHL.com that Nikita Gusev is the "big cherry on top" of all the club's offseason additions.
"Right now, we're really happy where we're at," he said.
And the Devils should be.
They have spent this summer infusing talent into their roster. The list of additions includes 2019 first-overall pick Jack Hughes, Norris Trophy-winning defenseman P.K. Subban, proven NHL scorer Wayne Simmonds, and now Gusev.
The Russian winger was originally a 2012 seventh-round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was acquired via a trade with Vegas, in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2021.
Gusev spoke with Russian NHL commentator Igor Eronko for an article published on sport-express.ru. While we're a little rusty on our Russian here at NewJerseyDevils.com, the miracle of technology allows us to get a loose translation of said discussion. It appears as though Gusev is excited about the opportunity to play for the Devils.
"I like where I hit," he said. "I like the team itself, and I understand that it can play well and win."
Fitzgerald mentioned in his interview that the Devils believe they have upgraded their top six. The opportunity to play high up in the lineup intrigues Gusev, who is an offensively dynamic player internationally.
Playing with top-end talent only increases his chance of having success in the NHL.
"This is the most important thing… What the [team] needs from me sets up in a positive way," he said.
"He's a darter, he's got extremely high hockey sense," Fitzgerald said. "He thinks the game really well and he can shoot the puck, he really can make plays. He plays the off-wing and that's fine by us. But he works, he competes and he hunts pucks. He can get in the holes and finds a space to get a shot off. So we think that translates into production."
Gusev has put up unreal numbers in the KHL. He was second in league scoring in 2017-18, recording 62 points (22-40-62) in 54 outings. His 22 goals were third-most in the league.
He bested those numbers in 2018-19, scoring 17 goals but totaling 82 points in 62 games. That led the KHL and is the second-highest point total in league history.
"Nikita is a winger who adds another offensive dimension to our hockey club with his outstanding instincts, vision and skill level," Devils General Manager Ray Shero told NewJerseyDevils.com.
The Devils put themselves in a good position to be able to capitalize on the availability of such a player.
Vegas Golden Knights General Manager George McPhee had a conference call with the media earlier this week and provided some insight into why they were willing to deal Gusev to the Devils. McPhee says he felt the contract ask from Gusev was more than they thought it would be.
Gusev was looking for a contract similar to the one Vadim Shipachyov received from Vegas and he got it from New Jersey. After completion of the trade, the Devils quickly agreed to terms with Gusev to a two-year deal worth an AAV of $4.5 million.
"The Devils showed me they very much need me," said Gusev, according to Eronko. "It's very important for me and it tells me a lot."
With all the additions this offseason, including Gusev, the Devils are poised to have a bounce-back season. And Gusev believes it too.
"With all the new players I'm sure we can play well and win."