According to Jesse Granger of The Athletic, a wide gap exists in contract talks between the Vegas Golden Knights and restricted free agent Nikita Gusev, leading the team to consider trade options for the Russian forward.
Granger reports that both sides are looking for a two-year deal, but remain as far as $2 million apart in average annual value.
Gusev joined the Golden Knights ahead of the playoffs this spring after nine seasons in the KHL but did not appear in a game with the team. He led the KHL in points in 2018-19 with 17 goals and 82 points in 62 games with SKA St. Petersburg before joining Vegas.
Golden Knights president of hockey operations George McPhee acknowledged Monday that there is a trade market for Gusev if the two sides can't reach a deal.
“There’s definitely an interest in him,” McPhee said. “We’ve had people call us on him. We’ll see what develops. I can’t tell you what will happen, but we’ll work on it. He’s been very, very good on the international stage. He wants to play in the NHL. He worked very hard to get over here, and we’re going to accommodate him one way or another, either here or with another club.”
McPhee noted however the clock may be ticking on the Golden Knights to make a decision as teams look to fill their cap space in the near future.
“Teams don’t typically like to wait that long,” McPhee said. “They’d like to get their business done in the next week or two because things do dry up. There will be a lot of talk over the next few days. Teams that didn’t get a free agent to fill a hole may be looking for a trade. I still think there’s a lot to be done around the league, and we’ll stay involved and see what happens.”
The Golden Knights have roughly $3 million in cap space with backup goaltender Malcolm Subban and defenceman Jimmy Schuldt also in need of new deals as restricted free agents. Granger believes Vegas could find the necessary cap space to sign all three players by trading forward Ryan Reaves and defenceman Nick Holden or by moving Cody Eakin, who is entering the final year of his deal.
“We think [Gusev] is a really good player,” McPhee said. “We’d like to work something out here, but if that doesn’t work out we’ll look at options.”