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Addition of Gusev Gives VGK Options

Forward Can Provide Scoring Touch to Lineup

by Gary Lawless @GoldenKnights /

It's been said there is a tool for every job. And nothing is worse than getting to a point in a project and realizing another instrument isn't in the cabinet. And when one reaches for the right tool and it is used to accomplish the required task - great satisfaction is often the result.

Nikita Gusev is another option. Another tool in Gerard Gallant's toolbox. Should Gallant find himself in need of what Gusev can provide - then GM George McPhee has done what he's supposed to do which is to supply the coach with the right mix of players to win games and in the perfect scenario to deliver a championship.

The Golden Knights announced Sunday they have signed Gusev to an entry level contract which will expire on July 1. At that point, Gusev will become a restricted free agent.

The 26-year-old Gusev led the KHL with 17 goals and 82 points this season and is the reigning MVP. His St. Petersburg team lost in the conference final and he finished his postseason. Gusev scored nine goals and 19 points in 18 playoff games this season. He also led Russia to a gold medal in the last Olympic games scoring four goals and 12 points in six games including two goals and two assists in the gold medal contest. He was selected as the tournament's top forward.

Golden Knights TV color analyst Shane Hnidy has seen Gusev while playing for Russia at the World Championships.

"He's a highly skilled offensive player. He's intelligent, he reads the ice well," said Hnidy. "It's a question now of him adjusting to the NHL from the KHL. But the fact he's a winger rather than a center should make that easier.

McPhee and Gallant have an effective relationship. McPhee is in charge of player acquisitions. The GM is the architect of the Golden Knights and develops the blueprint upon which the team is constructed.

Gallant is involved in this end of the business in an advisory role. The GM wants to know what his coach thinks of his team in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

Once McPhee has assembled the roster, he turns it over to Gallant and the coach determines who will play, who they will play with and how much they will play. He's the coach and the lineup is his domain.

Gallant was asked about Gusev this week prior to any signing and his response was telling.

"I don't know much about him," Gallant said Thursday. "George mentioned it today... If he joins us, we'll see what's going to happen. Hopefully he does join us and gets some practice time in with us."

McPhee has now given Gallant an extra tool. But it will be Gallant's call when and how to employ Gusev. After watching Gusev skate and practice with his team, Gallant will have the choice of when and where to use the player.

At the very least, McPhee has supplied Gallant with insurance and scoring depth. Perhaps the coach can employ him to provide scoring punch deep in the lineup. Maybe Gusev draws into the lineup when the matchup is favorable.

In the end, it's another option for an already strong team. McPhee has once again proven to be superior in regard to asset management and the Golden Knights and Gallant are better for it.

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