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Maple Leafs sign winger Nikita Gusev to professional tryout

Pro Hockey Rumors
Pro Hockey Rumors
 2021-09-18
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Nikita Gusev is heading to Toronto. Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Russian winger Nikita Gusev to a professional tryout contract. CapFriendly was first to report the news Friday night.

Gusev has had quite the journey around the NHL despite playing in only 97 career games over the past two seasons. Originally a seventh-round draft selection in 2012 by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Gusev was dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 for expansion draft considerations. Gusev signed his entry-level contract with Vegas during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but never suited up for the franchise. His signing rights were dealt to the New Jersey Devils just months later in exchange for draft picks, where the former KHL All-Star and Gagarin Cup Champion then suited up for his rookie season. Things went well for Gusev in 2019-20, scoring 44 points in 66 games, but he fell out of favor with the coaching staff this year and saw his contract mutually terminated. After clearing waivers, Gusev signed a deal with the Florida Panthers for the remainder of the season. He performed decently with Florida down the stretch, scoring five points in 11 games, but he didn’t make a playoff appearance.

While his inconsistency and uncertainty last season may have some questioning the tryout, he’s still just one year removed from a 40-point campaign in a shortened season. Gusev’s certainly had his struggles defensively, he’s still an extremely skilled playmaker and a valuable power-play option. Gusev, if he’s signed, could join a left-wing depth chart in Toronto that’s wide open. He’ll compete with Nick Ritchie, Michael Bunting and others for potential top-six usage with either Auston Matthews or John Tavares. Adding Gusev to an already possession-strong unit could potentially pay dividends.

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