Nikita Gusev is joining the Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The 26-year-old left wing, who is the reigning MVP of the Kontinental Hockey League, signed a one-year, entry-level contract with the Golden Knights on Sunday.
Gusev is expected to report to the Golden Knights and practice with them on Monday. Vegas hosts the San Jose Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round on Sunday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, SN360, ATTSN-RM, NBCSCA). The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.
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"He'll join our group tomorrow and we'll see where it goes," Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said. "I'm not going to make any promises either way. We'll see what happens. I like our team. I've liked our team all year. If we think we need him to put in the lineup, we'll see where it goes."
Said Golden Knights general manager George McPhee, "It helps because this contract will expire July 1 and then we can work on the second one. To get him in here, it burns the entry level part of his first year so he can get to a different level contract in the summer."
Gusev has played with SKA St. Petersburg since 2015-16 and led the KHL in scoring this season with 82 points (17 goals, 65 assists).
SKA St. Petersburg was eliminated in the KHL conference finals by CSKA Moscow on Tuesday, and TSN reported Friday that Gusev received a contract release from the team.
In nine seasons in the KHL, Gusev is 10th all-time with 332 points (119 goals, 213 assists) in 391 games. He helped SKA St. Petersburg win the Gagarin Cup in 2017 and won the Golden Stick as the KHL's most valuable player in 2018. Gusev also helped the Olympic Athletes from Russia win the gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics and was named Best Forward after leading the tournament with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games.
"I'm not going to use his play in the KHL [to evaluate him] but he's a high-end player," Gallant said. "We'll see what he does in practice. I'm very confident with my lineup right now. We'll do the job the way we're going to do the job. He's another player to our team, and that's what makes it good. If we don't need him right now, we'll see where it goes."
Gusev, who will wear No. 17 with Vegas, was a seventh-round pick (No. 202) in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning but has not played in the NHL. Vegas acquired Gusev in a trade with Tampa Bay during the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft in correspondence with the Golden Knights then choosing defenseman Jason Garrison.
"He's a very intelligent player. Very good on the power play and so good over there that you have to sign him and find out what he can do at this level," McPhee said. "He's at the right age to try this and I was delighted that he worked hard to get over here. It wasn't an easy thing. He had to give up a lot of bonuses and everything else in his contract that he already earned. Gave them back and got his release. It starts a new chapter in his life."