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Gusev trade was 'lucky' for Devils, Brodeur says

Hall of Fame goalie endorses offseason moves, selecting Hughes No. 1 in 2019 NHL Draft @NHLdotcom

Nikita Gusev being available in an offseason trade was "lucky" for the New Jersey Devils, Martin Brodeur said Tuesday.

Gusev was traded to the Devils by the Vegas Golden Knights on July 29, more than a year after Vegas acquired him from the Tampa Bay Lightning at the NHL Expansion Draft on June 21, 2017.

"Tampa Bay is kind of a Russian powerhouse with all the Russians they've had, and then they had to move him for [NHL salary cap] reasons, and same with Vegas," said Brodeur, the Hockey Hall of Fame goalie who is the Devils executive vice president of business development. "I guess we got lucky there to benefit from them."

Brodeur scouted Gusev when he was assistant general manager of the St. Louis Blues for three seasons before joining the Devils in 2018-19. The forward was selected by the Lightning in the seventh round (No. 202) of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Gusev played the past four seasons for St. Petersburg SKA, led the Kontinental Hockey League with 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists) in 62 games, and was named league MVP last season. He is 10th in KHL history with 332 points (119 goals, 213 assists) in 391 games and helped St. Petersburg SKA win the Gagarin Cup in 2017.

"When I was working with the St. Louis Blues I got to see him a lot and could not believe he was not in the NHL, and now (the Devils) have him," Brodeur said. "I saw a lot of offense. He's a slick player, just a guy that slows down the game. He's got great vision, got scoring touch. Not a big guy, but this game right now doesn't really ask for that anymore. He's 27 years old, he's a seasoned player now. He's got the success where he played before, played with some NHL players in the KHL, and now he's moving on to the NHL."

The Devils had an active offseason, selecting center Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 21 and acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade with the Nashville Predators the next day. New Jersey signed right wing Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million contact July 1.

"I think (Devils GM) Ray Shero and his group did a great job putting us back on the map this summer," Brodeur said. "We made a lot of different moves, so it's exciting. I remembered the day we won the NHL Draft Lottery, then made the trade for P.K. Now it's like, 'Wow.' There's something going on and there's a vibe in our offices where everyone is excited. You never notice that as a player but now I see it. Everyone is so excited about what can happen."

Brodeur played 21 seasons in New Jersey, where he won the Stanley Cup three times (1995, 2000, 2003) before finishing his NHL career by playing seven games for the Blues in 2014-15. The NHL leader in wins (691), shutouts (125) and games by a goalie (1,266) said Hughes will benefit from beginning his NHL career with the Devils. 

"I think New Jersey is great for a kid like that," Brodeur said. "It's not overwhelming. He'll be able to play and grow his game. You can't expect him to break barriers as an 18-year-old. He's going to be part of the puzzle and solution down the road, and I think New Jersey is a great market to be able to learn that.

"I think other markets sometimes have higher expectations, but he comes from a great family and he'll be prepared for the challenge."

Hughes led the USA Hockey National Team Development Program under-18 team with 112 points (34 goals, 78 assists) in 50 games last season. staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report

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