The contract carries an average annual value of $4.5 million. The draft picks going back to the Golden Knights are a third-round pick in 2020 and a second-round selection in 2021.
Gusev, 27, led the KHL with 65 assists and 82 points last season and is a four-time all-star in that league. The left-winger has 119 goals and 332 points in 391 career KHL games, and 28 goals and 68 points in 67 playoff games.
Originally a seventh-round pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012, Gusev was acquired by the Golden Knights in a trade ahead of the 2017 expansion draft.
Gusev joined the Golden Knights for their playoff run last season but didn’t play in any games of their first-round series with the San Jose Sharks. He was a restricted free agent this summer and with the Golden Knights holding just over $1 million in cap space, the team was limited in what it could offer Gusev in contract talks.
“We did our best to accommodate Nikita and his salary request but were unable to do so. He is a good person, a good player and we wish him well in New Jersey,” said Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee in a statement. “When you have a roster comprised of players who are deserving of a certain salary range you are not always able to make room for everyone. This is the reality of having a good team in the salary cap world.
“After this trade, we now own nine picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. These picks will help boost our organizational depth and add to our pool of prospects. Although we were not able to make this work I am really happy with where we are at with our roster.”
The trade and signing is the latest in a long list of moves the Devils have made to rebuild their team after missing the playoffs last season. Gusev will join No. 1 draft pick Jack Hughes, defenceman P.K. Subban and free agent signing Wayne Simmonds on the new-look Devils, who will be trying to get back to the playoffs for only the second time since they lost to the L.A. Kings in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final.