The Vegas Golden Knights are finishing up their offseason contract negotiations, and have found ways to cut player salary obligations to bring them under the NHL’s salary cap. They’ve signed William Karlsson, Deryk Engelland, Malcolm Subban, Brandon Pirri, and Tomas Nosek. Vegas also managed to trade away David Clarkson’s $5.25M salary burden to Toronto. But with only $1.025M left in cap space, Vegas still has some big decisions ahead of them, and what to do with Nikita Gusev is only one of them.
The current roster shows 22 signed players, with 23 being the maximum allowed. If the Vegas Golden Knights manage to sign Nikita Gusev, the roster would be full. However, McPhee has stated that he plans on giving a few rookie players a chance this season. Unless moves are made to the current roster, this can’t happen.
Vegas Golden Knights’ Current Situation:
Among the usual lineup, the Knights have one-way contracts with Valentin Zykov and Curtis McKenzie, making them 2 of the 14 signed forwards on the roster. Both of these players would need to clear waivers if they were to be sent down to the AHL. However doing so would prevent their salaries from affecting the Cap (since their contracts are under $950,000), and give room on the roster for some up-and-coming players like Cody Glass (Forward) and Nic Hague (Defensemen). Since Vegas only has six defenders right now, it is especially important to make room for Nic Hague, or another defender, as a backup if any of the regular defenders get injured. And I think we all want to prevent the duo of Merrill and Holden from happening again this season.
Another option is to trade Nick Holden ($2.2M). They could try to acquire another defensemen for half price, or just bring up two AHL players to fill defensive vacancies (Schuldt and Hague?). Then they could use the other half of his salary to sign Gusev. If Vegas did this, they could choose waive McKenzie OR Zykov, instead of both, and still get one extra defensemen and a solid offer for Gusev.
Nikita Gusev’s Current Situation
Gusev’s bargaining power is pretty slim. Because he doesn’t have at least one year of experience in the NHL, he doesn’t qualify to be a regular (Group 2) RFA, and instead is a 10.2(c) player. According to Capfriendly.com, a 10.2(c) player “is only eligible to negotiate and sign a contract with the club that holds their signing rights. They are ineligible to negotiate a contract (offer sheet) with any other club. They are also ineligible for arbitration.” So since Vegas holds Gusev’s signing rights, his only options are to accept the Knights’ offer, or to go back to the KHL. Vegas could also choose to trade Gusev if they wanted, but most would agree this would be foolish before seeing what the kid can do here.
In the KHL, Nikita Gusev was earning 80 million Rubles in 2019 (according to this Russian article), which equals $1,265,458 USD. We know that Gusev wants to play in the NHL, and that, if he performs well, he has a much higher earning potential here. Even though he’s asking for $4 Million, it’s not too crazy to think that the Knights could offer Gusev around $1,775,000 (cap space + McKenzie’s salary) or $2M-$2.5M (with a Holden trade), and have him accept it. Plus the Knights could sweeten the pot by offering incentives worth several hundred thousand dollars more, like they did with Deryk Engelland. And of course, if Gusev plays well here, he knows he can expect that salary to jump a couple million once his contract expires.
GM for a Day
- Trade or Waive Zykov. He doesn’t stand out in the crowd, and if unclaimed, we could use him as needed.
- Bring up Hague. Give him the minimum NHL salary. Groom him to be one of our top two-way defenders.
- Compare McKenzie to other forwards in training camp. If another player looks better, waive him.
- Figure out exactly how far Gusev is willing to go down in his negotiations. If needed, trade Holden and use the money to sign Schuldt and Gusev.
New lines look as follows:
Scratches/Alternates: Carrier, Schuldt, Zykov/McKenzie (or whoever replaces them)