SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Golden Knights are set to add another scoring threat for the NHL playoffs.
Russian forward Nikita Gusev was granted a release from his Kontinental Hockey League contract Friday and intends to sign an entry-level contract with the Knights, his representative, J.P. Barry, confirmed.
Gusev, 26, would be eligible to participate in the Western Conference quarterfinal against the San Jose Sharks if he signs. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is Sunday at T-Mobile Arena, followed by Game 4 on Tuesday.
“We will discuss this with the Knights this weekend, but the plan is to sign and play this postseason,” Barry wrote in an email to the Review-Journal.
Gusev had 82 points — the second-highest total in KHL history — in 62 games for SKA St. Petersburg, which lost in the conference finals of the Gagarin Cup playoffs this week.
His contract with SKA ran through April 30.
A Knights spokesperson said the team would not comment on Gusev’s status until it’s appropriate.
Gusev, who led Team Russia to the gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics and was MVP of the KHL last season, is required to sign a one-year deal with the Knights.
He would become a restricted free agent if he signed this weekend and burned his entry-level deal. Gusev could then sign a long-term contract with the club starting July 1.
If Gusev signed his one-year, entry-level deal this summer, the soonest he could sign an extension with the Knights is Jan. 1. Otherwise, he would become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020.
The Knights acquired Gusev’s rights in an expansion draft trade with Tampa Bay as part of an agreement to select defenseman Jason Garrison.
Knights forward Ryan Reaves joked he was “just comparing sticks” with San Jose’s Evander Kane during their third-period sword fight in Game 1 that led to each receiving 10-minute misconducts.
“Me and Joe (Thornton) did it last time,” Reaves said following the morning skate. “I think he uses a Bauer. I got a CCM. I like mine a little bit better.”
Reaves has never hidden his disdain for Kane, and their rivalry should only intensify throughout the series.
Kane, who led the league in penalty minutes with 153, previously called Reaves the Knights’ “babysitter.”
“I mean, I’ve got to be the highest paid babysitter in the world if that’s true,” Reaves said. “It’s a bad chirp. He can’t come up with anything new, so he’s just sticking to the one line. It’s not even funny.”
Schuldt misses Hobey
Knights defenseman Jimmy Schuldt missed out on winning the Hobey Baker Award, which goes to the top player in college hockey. Massachusetts defenseman Cale Makar, the No. 4 pick in the 2017 draft by Colorado, took home the award.
Schuldt was named a first-team All-America after posting 10 goals and 25 assists as a senior for St. Cloud State.
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Colin Miller returns to lineup
Colin Miller was back in the lineup Friday for Game 2 of the Western Conference quarterfinals after he was a healthy scratch in the opener.
“No one wants to sit out and it sucks, so we’ll go from there,” Miller said following Friday’s morning skate.
Miller, the Knights’ second-highest paid defenseman, had three goals and 29 points during the regular season after posting 10 goals and 41 points in his first season with the Knights.
Miller was paired with Jon Merrill and featured on the power play after Nate Schmidt was ineffective in that role Wednesday.
“Their penalty kill, obviously they have that high pressure and they come pretty quick,” Miller said. “I think it’s just take the opportunities when they’re there. It’s tough sometimes to get in the zone and get things set up, but when you have the opportunity to shoot it, definitely take it.”
David Schoen Review-Journal