Nikita Gusev Trade Shortens NJ Devils’ Stanley Cup Odds
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Summertime has become like Christmas time for New Jersey Devils fans. First, the Devils win the NHL draft lottery and get United States phenom forward Jack Hughes with the No. 1 pick. Then they get star defenseman P.K. Subban in a trade from Nashville, along with the free-agent signing of bruising forward Wayne Simmonds.
Those kinds of developments pushed the previously bottom-feeding Devils to a respectable +3500 to win the 2020 Stanley Cup, at bookmakers such as 888Sport in New Jersey.
On Monday, Devils fans got another present: a Russian forward named Nikita Gusev. While Devils and other NHL betting fans might be saying “Nikita Who?” right now, that likely won’t be the case come October.
Gusev, a 27-year-old left wing who was one of the top scorers in the Kontinental Hockey League the last couple of years, was traded by the Vegas Golden Knights to the Devils in exchange for a second-round pick and a third-round pick. After the deal was announced, the Devils’ Stanley Cup odds suddenly got much better – to +2000.
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Devils Have Legit Top-Six Now
The Devils were 25th in the NHL last season in goals scored (219), but that number should get higher in 2019-20. First off, former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall, who only played 33 games, is healthy again. Add Hughes, Subban and Simmonds to the mix, and there are three more guys who can put points on the board.
Hughes could be the league’s next big superstar. He is the Devils’ second No. 1 overall pick in three years, with center Nico Hischier the other.
Now, with the addition of Gusev , who signed a two-year contract with a cap hit of $4.5 million per, New Jersey has a legitimately scary-looking top-six group of forwards.
The Devils still have some problem areas to address before they get into the elite group of teams (the defense still looks a bit iffy, as do the bottom six lines and starting goalie Cory Schneider is 33 years old). But that offense alone, at least on paper, should win them a lot more games than the 31 of last year.
Can Gusev Do It At The NHL Level Though?
The KHL has a lot of good players, but it certainly isn’t the NHL. Gusev put up 17 goals and 82 points in 62 games last season for St. Petersburg and had previous seasons of 62 and 71 points, respectively.
Scoring goals is harder in the big ice-sheet European leagues, however, and 82 points is a lot for the KHL. In the smaller rinks of the NHL, Gusev won’t have to skate as much to get into prime scoring areas, and he’ll be playing with more talented teammates.
Of course, smaller rinks mean defenders won’t have to travel as far to lay a body on Gusev. There won’t be as much room for him to dangle pucks and lots of players who were big scorers in European leagues couldn’t handle the adjustment to North America and saw their careers diminish.
Gusev was actually drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round in 2012, but he and the Bolts never could agree on a contract, and his rights were traded by Tampa Bay to Vegas just prior to the 2017 Expansion Draft.
Vegas had a salary-cap crunch and couldn’t afford to sign the 5-foot-11, 176-pound winger, so they made a deal with the Devils.
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Betting on the New Jersey Devils
At +2000 to win it all, the Devils certainly go from too good to pass up to an excellent value proposition, though Schneider’s age and recent injury history make goaltending an ongoing worry. He has been at or near the elite level in the past, though.
The Devils gave up a fair amount to get a guy who has yet to play a single second in the NHL, a guy who is 27, which is close to being considered semi-old in this league. So, there is some real risk here. But GM Ray Shero is a pretty sharp guy, and no doubt the Devils did their homework on him.
Bottom line: Devils fans have a lot more to look forward to than they did at this time last year, and those who love to bet on the Devils do as well.