Devils Re-Sign Butcher to Three-Year Contract

The Devils continued to build their team going forward as they have today re-signed defenseman Will Butcher to a three-year contract worth $11.19 million ($3.73 million annually). Butcher, a restricted free agent, will avoid a salary arbitration hearing that was scheduled for Friday, according to the Devils’ press release on the subject.

Butcher, 24, had 30 points last year, including four goals and 26 assists in 78 games played. That likely played into the contract numbers.

Butcher originally signed a two-year entry level contract worth $925,000 annually after deciding to sign with the Devils on August 27, 2917 according to the press release. He was originally drafted in the fifth round (123rd overall) by the Colorado Avalanche in 2013 but declined to sign with them following four years at the University of Denver.

While at the University of Denver, he won the 2017 Hobey Baker Award “as the top player in NCAA Division I men’s hockey.” He also led the Pioneers to a National Championship also in 2017.

His career totals in the NHL thus far read: 74 points (nine goals and 65 assists) over 159 games (regular season) and four points (a goal and three assists) over just five playoff games all for the Devils.

According to the Devils’ PR Department’s press release, in his rookie year, Butcher “set a franchise record for points in a Devils’/NHL debut with 3A (3PTS) in the team’s home opener October 7 vs. Colorado.” He also was the “first rookie defenseman in NHL history to record at least 8A in his first 3GP of an NHL career.” In addition, Butcher was “the first Devil in team history to reach 20PTS in first 30 NHL games.” He led Devils’ defensemen in scoring with 44 points (five goals and 39 assists) in his rookie year, ending up fourth in the team in scoring overall. The Sun Prairie, Wisconsin native was also named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team following the conclusion of his rookie year in 2017-18.

Devils Trade for Gusev

The Devils today announced that they have acquired Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights. The left wing was picked up in exchange for the Devils’ third round Draft pick in 2020 and their second-round pick in 2021.

Following the deal with the restricted free agent, the Devils have announced that they have come to terms on a contract with him, worth an average annual value of $4,500,000. The two-year contract, according to the Devils’ website’s Chris Wescott, breaks down to $5,000,000 in 2019-20 and $4,000,000 in 2020-21.

Gusev spent last year with SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) according to Wescott. He was drafted by Tampa Bay in 2012, their eighth pick (202nd overall). Vegas then acquired him in a deal at the Expansion Draft, sending a second-round pick in 2017 and a fourth rounder in 2018 to Tampa in exchange.

According to Wescott, he came to North America during the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs, but did not play a game for the Knights.

He has played all of his pro career up to this point in Russia in the KHL. Wescott said that he played with Amur Khabarovsk in 2012-13, Yugra Khanty-Manslysk from 2013 to 2016 and SKA St. Petersburg from 2016 to 2019. Wescott listed the 27-year-old’s KHL stats as: 119 goals and 213 assists (332 points) and 64 penalty minutes all in 391 games. In the KHL playoffs, he has 28 goals and 40 assists (68 points) over 67 games. He won the 2017 Gargarin Cup (the KHL championship) with SKA St. Petersburg in 2017.

This past season, Wescott reports that Gusev “led the KHL in assists and points and was selected to his fourth KHL All-Star Game.”

Wescott mentioned in the press release that Gusev has competed internationally for Russia in the 2012 World Junior Championship, the 2017 World Championship and the 2018 Olympics. He won a bronze medal in 2017 (also leading the tournament in goals that year) and gold at the 2018 Olympics. At that tournament in Pyeongchang, South Korea, he had four goals and eight assists (12 points) over six games. Wescott says that “(h)is assist and point totals led all skaters” in the 2018 Olympics. Gusev “was named the Best Forward of” the Olympic tournament.

In other news reported by the Devils and Wescott, the right-shooting Gusev, who just celebrated a birthday (born on July 8, 1992), will wear number 97 for the team this coming season.

Gusev makes a great addition to the Devils offensively. As GM Ray Shero told Wescott in a separate post on the Devils’ website: “Nikita is a winger who adds another offensive dimension to our hockey club with his outstanding instincts, vision and skill level.”

Wescott, in a third post entitled “Three Things: Get to Know Gusev”, mentioned that Gusev was second in the KHL in scoring in 2017-18, while also winning their equivalent of the Hart Trophy as regular season MVP, and the KHL Gentleman Award (similar to the Lady Byng Trophy here in the NHL). Gusev also scored 82 points total in 2018-19, which stands as “the second-highest point total in KHL history.”

In his third point in his article, Wescott brings up something very interesting. Why did the Golden Knights part with a player who has such a high upside? The answer lies in the salary cap. As Wescott said, he “was a cap casualty.”

The article says that Gusev “had signed a one-year, entry-level deal with Vegas on April 14 but he did not appear in the playoffs. The contract expired after the season, making Gusev a restricted free agent [without arbitration rights].”

Basically, Gusev was asking more than Vegas (a team up against the cap) could afford. Since the Devils had cap space in abundance, they were able to swoop in and acquire Gusev.