Florida Panthers sign Nikita Gusev to one-year contract

Former Devil added to mix as Cats ready for playoffs

The  Florida Panthers have agreed to terms with unrestricted free agent forward Nikita Gusev on a one-year contract for the remainder of the 2020-21 season.

General manager Bill Zito had this to say:

“Nikita is a highly skilled and creative forward who plays the game with great speed and playmaking ability, He has proven himself to be a tremendous offensive talent throughout his career. We are thrilled for Nikita to join the Panthers and look forward to what he can add to our team.”

Gusev, 28, appeared in 20 games this season with the New Jersey Devils, recording five points (2G/3A) before his contract was terminated. The 5-foot-9, 163-pound native of Moscow, Russia, registered 44 points (13G/31A) over 66 games during his first NHL season in 2019-20, ranking second on the Devils in points, while leading the club in assists (31) and even-strength points (29).

Originally selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the seventh round (202nd overall) of the 2012 National Hockey League Entry Draft, Gusev has registered 15 goals and 49 points over 86 career NHL games, all with New Jersey.

A four-time All-Star and 2017 Gagarin Cup Champion in the Kontinental Hockey League, Gusev appeared in 391 career KHL games, amassing 332 points (119G/213A). In postseason play, he produced 68 points (28G/40A) over 67 career KHL playoff games.

Gusev led the KHL in scoring during the 2018-19 season, posting 82 points (17G/65A) over 62 games. Named the KHL’s Most Valuable Player in 2017-18, Gusev led the league in assists over each of his last two seasons in Russia.

At the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, Gusev captured a Gold Medal with the Olympic Athletes from Russia, notching a tournament-leading 12 points and eight assists in six games. Named the tournament’s best forward, Gusev was the only player at the 2018 Olympics to record at least 10 points.

Representing Russia internationally, Gusev has won two IIHF World Championship Bronze Medals (2017, 2019) and one IIHF World Junior Championship Silver Medal (2012).

It will be interesting to see if with additions of Gusev and defenseman Brandon Montour, Zito feels he’s bolstered his lineup enough, or if he’s still looking for more before Monday’s trade deadline.