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.

Draft Day Two: Devils Acquire PK Subban

What. A. Day. After getting Jack Hughes with the first overall pick yesterday, the Devils kicked off the second day of the 2019 NHL Draft by making quite the splash. The club acquired defenseman PK Subban from the Nashville Predators in exchange for defenseman Steven Santini, defenseman Jeremy Davies, a second-round pick in this year’s Draft (34th overall) and their second-round pick in the 2020 Draft.

The deal made sense for both teams as Nashville was trying to shed some cap in order to sign free agent forward Matt Duchene and the Devils will take on Subban’s entire salary. New Jersey finally gets to use some of their much-vaunted cap space and add a huge piece to their team going forward.

Subban is 30 years old and is one of the NHL’s premier blueliners. He has appeared in the “last three NHL All-Star Games (captaining his squad in the last two) and has been named to the NHL First All-Star Team twice” according to Chris Wescott of the Devils’ official website.

Subban played from 2009-10 to 2015-16 with the Montreal Canadiens and then the last three seasons with the Preds. One thing that Subban brings to the Devils, besides a booming shot from the point and great offensive skill, is notoriety. He is one of the most popular players in the league and also appears in commercials, endorsing things such as Bridgestone tires. He is also a charitable player who has given back to the community in Montreal and Nashville. It is not a stretch to think that with the combination of Taylor Hall, Jack Hughes and PK Subban, the Devils should now appear on national broadcasts a little bit more than in the past. The Devils suddenly become more interesting to a national audience.

The Devils are getting a player who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman in 2013 and competed in the 2014 Olympics – where he won a gold medal with Canada. The native of Toronto had nine goals and 22 assists last season for 31 total points. He played in an abbreviated 63 game season due to injury. Over his career, he has notched 98 goals and 310 assists for 408 points in 645 games according to Hockey-Reference.com. NewJerseyDevils.com’s Wescott mentioned that he has played in 96 playoff games. In those postseason games, he has 18 goals and 44 assists for 65 points. He helped lead Nashville to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final.

Welcome to New Jersey, PK Subban!

The Devils also made one other (low profile) trade today, acquiring John Hayden from the Blackhawks in exchange for John Quenneville.

Hayden was the Hawks’ third-round pick in 2013, out of Yale University. He appeared in 54 games for Chicago over the last four seasons, scoring three goals and two assists for five NHL points. He also logged 27 penalty minutes. This information all came via Chris Wescott of NewJerseyDevils.com.

As for the other eight picks the Devils had in this year’s Draft, those were well-spent. The team picked d-man Nikita Okhotyuk of the Ottawa 67’s (Ontario Hockey League) 61st overall in the second round. Wescott said that he had a pair of goals and 15 assists in 56 games for the 67’s last year. The native of Russia was the “NHL Central Scouting’s 55th-ranked North American Skater” and “captained Team Russia to a bronze medal at the 2018 Hlinka-Gretzky Cup.”

In the third round, the Devils had three picks. With the eighth pick, they took defenseman Danill Misyul from Yaroslavl 2 out of Russia. With the 18th pick in the round, they took Graeme Clarke of the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. Clarke was born April 24, 2001 in Ottawa. He is a 6-foot, 174-pound right winger who plays “the game at a high level. Combines playmaking ability with a nose for the net” according to Future Considerations. McKeen’s Hockey said that he “is also a very gifted puck handler, blending skill with creativity.” He was ranked as the number 77 North American skater by TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

With the 20th pick in the third round, the Devils selected defenseman Michael Vukojevic of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Born June 8, 2001, Vukojevic is a left-shooting d-man and is a “mobile shutdown defenseman who plays a physical brand of hockey” according to Hockeyprospect.com via EliteProspects. The reviews on him are that he is a good skater and “is accomplished at separating his man from the puck and can be punishing in front of his goalie” (McKeen’s Hockey). He was ranked number 76 amongst North American skaters by McKenzie.

Moving on to the fourth round, the Devils had two picks in that round including the third pick and the 25th pick. With the third pick, they took Tyce Thompson, a right wing from Providence College. He is the brother of Tage Thompson of the Buffalo Sabres and was born on July 12, 1999 in Oyster Bay, New York. He was ranked 83rd among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. He put up eight goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 42 games for the Friars last season.

With the 25th pick in the fourth round, the Devils took Case McCarthy of the US National Development Team. McCarthy of Clarence, New York was born on January 9, 2001 and is a right-shooting defenseman. He was ranked 77th by the NHL Central Scouting among North American skaters. He is described as a physical player, who does not go out of position to chase the big hit. He also has an “excellent breakout pass to exit the zone” as per Future Considerations.

Moving on to round five, the Devils had two picks. With the third pick in that round, they took Cole Brady, a goalie from the Janesville Jets of the North American Hockey League. He is 6-feet, 5-inches, 165-pounds and catches left. He was ranked number nine by the NHL Central Scouting for North American goalies. The native of Pickering, Ontario was born February 12, 2001.

Two picks later, the Devils selected Arseny Gritsyuk, a right wing from Omsk-2 of Russia.

With a pick in the sixth round and one in the seventh, the Devils were on the clock two more times. In round sixth, with the third pick, they took Patrick Moynihan, a right wing from the US National Development Program. Moynihan will be playing next season at Providence College, but he Millis, Massachusetts native (born January 23, 2001) was ranked 73rd among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He is considered a good two-way forward, with McKeen’s Hockey saying that he “is a diligent and versatile forward, able to impact the game in both the offensive and defensive roles.” Future Considerations said that he “has a good shot and is able to release it quickly to fool opposing goaltenders.” With him committing to Providence, the Devils may or may not be able to sign him following his NCAA career (ala Will Butcher and Alex Kerfoot), but that is the gamble you take on a college player and why you take them in the later rounds generally.

The third pick in the seventh round rounded out the Devils’ 2019 Draft and they took Nikola Pasic, a right wing from Linkoping Jr. of Sweden. A native of Gislaved, Sweden, he was born on October 16, 2000 and was ranked 88th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. He is an offensive threat with Hockeyprospect.com saying that “Pasic is a dangler, where he uses his stickhandling to dazzle opponents and gets around them using fast hands and great balance.” McKeen’s Hockey said that he “has a quick release on his wrist shot and is dangerous when shooting while moving at top speed.” Future Considerations summed him up by saying that his “excellent vision and passing skills bode well for teammates and he is great at making plays happen.”

Overall, not a bad haul for the Devils this Draft (quite an understatement, I know). We will see where this takes us as we get closer to development camp and training camp through July, August and September. It is shaping up to be a great time for Devils fans. All I can say is enjoy the ride!

Devils Pick Up Patrick Maroon From Edmonton

The Devils were not done being buyers at the trade deadline before its end at 3 PM today. They sent a third round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and the rights to JD Dudek, who is currently at Boston College (the Devils’ fifth pick, 152nd overall in 2014) to the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon.

Maroon, a left winger, has 14 goals and 30 points in a total of 57 games this year. Now, the main issue is that the Devils have a glut of left wings in their lineup. But, as many have pointed out, newly-acquired Michael Grabner can also play right wing, which would give the team some depth there and get some of the guys like Jimmy Hayes or Drew Stafford, who have not had as good production this year as the team would like, out of the lineup.

Maroon, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 225-pound St. Louis native does have a fair amount of playoff experience despite being in just his sixth NHL season. The 29-year-old, in his time with the Anaheim Ducks and the Oilers, has 12 goals and 26 points in 42 Stanley Cup playoff games. His playoff history includes going to the second round with Anaheim in 2014, the Western Conference Finals with the Ducks in 2015 and the second round last year with the Oilers.

He did play with Taylor Hall in Edmonton for a few months, having been traded there on February 29, 2016 from Anaheim for Martin Gernat and a fourth round pick 2016 Draft that became Jack Kopacka.

Maroon played one year with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League – in which he notched 90 points (35 goals and 55 assists according to the Devils’ press release). Maroon was then taken by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 2007 NHL Draft, 161st overall.

This is a move to give the Devils some playoff fortitude. Maroon has had some success in the playoffs and the Devils are showing that they are going for broke by giving up some assets to get pieces for the playoffs. They want to make the playoffs and, hopefully go far – although I am sure management is realistic about the team’s chances to the win a Stanley Cup.

Factor in that they only gave up essentially a second rounder, a third rounder, Yegor Rykov and JD Dudek for Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon. That is getting things ready for a playoff run in the now and it is good to see the Devils strike when they are hot.

The Devils are now all in about making a run at the postseason. This move only makes them stronger.

Note: photo at the top of this post is via SI.com.

Hell Freezes Over: Devils Acquire Grabner From Rangers

It took 35 years, but the New York Rangers finally made a deal with the Devils. The Devils tonight acquired forward Michael Grabner from New York in exchange for a second round pick in the 2018 Draft and the rights to Yegor Rykov, a defenseman (picked in the fifth round, 132nd overall, in the 2016 Draft) currently playing for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL.

According to the Devils’ press release, GM Ray Shero made the announcement that the 30-year-old Grabner had been secured. He has 25 goals and 31 points in 59 games this season with his goal output leading the Rangers and his points ranking fourth. He is playing in his ninth NHL season (played with Vancouver, the Islanders, Toronto and the Rangers – he now makes the metropolitan area trifecta having played for the Isles, Rangers and Devils). The 6-foot, 1-inch, 190 pound native of Villach, Austria was Vancouver’s first pick (14th overall) in the 2006 Draft.

He has 156 goals and a total of 244 points in 532 NHL career games. He also has 92 penalty minutes and is in the final season of a two-year contract according to the press release. He will make $1.65 million this season.

He has represented Austria internationally, according to the press release, at the 2005 World Junior Championship, 2012 World Championship and the 2014 Olympics. Grabner played junior hockey with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League “and played in the 2006 CHL Top Prospects Game.”

Although he is likely a rental for the playoff push at this rate and Shero has said in the past that he would gladly make deals with the Rangers if it improved the team, this is still a little bit jarring. It is great to have a player like Grabner on board as he will add scoring on a team that has not been getting much of it consistently outside of Taylor Hall.

The big question is Rykov. He is a good prospect, but if he never comes over from Russia, the Devils will not have lost much. If he does, then….

Either way, the Devils have some help for the playoff push and history has certainly been made. I do not think that this will become a habit, but I do think that both teams will benefit from it – especially if the Devils make the postseason.

Devils and Ducks Make Deal

The Devils have acquired some help on the blue line in the form of Sami Vatanen from the Anaheim Ducks. They today announced that they have sent Adam Henrique, Joseph Blandisi and their 2018 third round pick west to the Ducks in exchange for the defenseman and a conditional third round pick.

The conditions of the pick are, according to the press release put out on the Devils’ website:

⦁ “If Anaheim signs Henrique to a new Standard Player Contract for 2019-20 prior to their own third-round pick of the 2019 Draft, Anaheim will transfer their own third-round pick in the 2019 Draft to New Jersey.”
⦁ “If Anaheim signs Henrique to a new Standard Player Contract for 2019-20  after their own third-round pick of the 2019 Draft, Anaheim will transfer their  own third-round pick in the 2020 Draft to New Jersey.”
⦁ “If Henrique does not re-sign with Anaheim, no pick will be exchanged.”

The Devils needed help on the back end and Ray Shero had this to say about the deal: “In acquiring Sami, we bring on a right shot, top-four defenseman who can play in all situations. This move also gives us contract certainty on the back end for the next two-plus years.” Vatanen is “in the second year of a four year, $19.5 million dollar contract ($4,875,000 AAV)” according to the press release.

Shero also added: “When acquiring a defenseman like Vatanen, you have to give back quality assets or players in return. That is the case in this situation with Adam and Joe. Adam has been a key member of our organization for nearly ten years since he was drafted. His contributions both on and off the ice will always be appreciated by our organization and fans. For Joe, this is a great opportunity with a quality organization like Anaheim and I am happy for him.” Shero was, of course referring primarily to Henrique’s overtime goal in game six against the Rangers in the 2012 Eastern Conference Final when he mentioned “on ice contributions.” That one goal will cement ‘Rico’s’ legacy in Devils lore forever.

Shero complimented the Devils’ depth in the forward ranks, saying “This also says a great deal about our other forwards in Binghamton and those who have taken the next step in New Jersey. I am excited (as) they continue to push and provide us quality depth and competition from within.”

So what are the Devils getting in return? Vatanen is 26 years-old and a native of Jyvaskyla, Finland. He was the Ducks’ fifth selection (taken in the fourth round) pick in the 2009 Draft – taken 106th overall. The press release notes that he was taken by Anaheim in the same draft class that they took current-Devil Kyle Palmieri. He has represented Finland in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, 2014 Winter Olympics, 2010 and 2011 World Junior Championship and 2010 World Championship. He currently has one goal and three assists in 15 games (missing the first nine games of the 2017-18 season recovering from shoulder surgery he had in the off season).

He “finished second in scoring among Ducks defensemen last season, and led all Ducks defensemen the two years prior to that.” The press release also says that he “finished third on the Ducks in time-on-ice each of the past four seasons.” In four-plus seasons with the Ducks, he has played in 280 NHL regular season games. In that time, heas has 33 goals and 93 assists (126 points), 116 penalty minutes and a plus-22 rating. He has also played in 40 playoff games with five goals and 17 assists (22 points) and 18 penalty minutes. He is a smaller d-man at 5-feet, 10-inches tall and 126-pounds. All of the above information comes from the press release.

The defenseman, who played his pre-North American career with JyP Jyvaskyla of the Finnish league, will report to the Devils in Colorado as they get set to take on the Avalanche in Denver tomorrow. He will wear number 45.

While it is always sad to see someone like Henrique, who had become such an entrenched part of the Devils and Blandisi, who seems to have such a great upside, go, the Devils needed to do what they could to get some help on the back end. With Mirco Mueller going down with injury, an already weak spot for New Jersey was made even weaker. Vatanen will fill gaps as, it was noted by Shero, he can play in any situation, something the Devils were kind of limited with the current defense corps as they stood.

Good luck to Adam Henrique and Joseph Blandisi in Anaheim and welcome to New Jersey Sami Vatanen.

Devils Obtain Johansson for Picks

So, yesterday there was a segment of the fanbase who was a little bit upset about the Devils not improving enough on the opening of free agency. Today, Ray Shero reminded fans why he is considered one of the smartest men in hockey.

The Devils acquired former Washington Capital forward Marcus Johansson for two 2018 draft picks – the Florida Panthers’ second round pick (which the Devils acquired for Marc Savard, an all but retired-from-concussions-player whose contract was only taken on to reach the cap floor) and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ third round pick (which New Jersey got as compensation for the Leafs hiring of Lou Lamoriello).

Johansson is 26 years old, a seven year pro and a native of Landskrona, Sweden. Last year he had a career high in points with 58 (coming off of 24 goals and 34 assists) according to the Devils’ press release. The press release notes that five of those goals were game winners and two were overtime goals. He played in all 82 games last season. Those 58 points put him fourth on a stacked Washington team in scoring (behind only Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov – not a bad lineup there – he finished only one point behind Kuznetsov to boot).

The left-shooting winger gives the Devils some pop in the offensive category, somewhere the team has been lacking in for a long time. He had just signed a three-year, $13.75 million contract with the Caps last year. The contract has an average annual value of $4.58 million.

Although the team still has some holes in varying places, this helps them along very nicely. They certainly benefitted from the Capitals early exit in this year’s Stanley Cup playoffs, as Washington has been retooling and did not see Johansson as part of their future plans.

Speaking of the playoffs, he has obviously played a lot of playoff games for the Caps in recent years and since 2011, he has nine goals and 21 assists for 30 points in 69 games along with six penalty minutes. Two of those goals came on the power play.

One of the main reasons that the team went after Johansson was his possession stats. If you are familiar with Corsi, he has a 49.7 Corsi for percentage at even strength throughout his career according to Hockey-Reference.com. Similarly he has a 49.4 Fenwick for percentage at even strength. These stats basically measure how much his team controls the puck when this player is on the ice. This plays into John Hynes’ wish for the team to be a strong puck possession squad.

But no matter if you are into analytics or the eye test, there is no denying that Marcus Johansson is a good player. He will make the Devils’ offense, which has struggled to say the least (they finished third from the bottom in goals for – behind only the Avalanche, who were historically bad last year, and the Canucks – with only 183), that much better.

And all this for only two acquired picks.