Could Lightning prospect Nikita Gusev be on the move?
If the Lightning is indeed making a side deal with Vegas to protect its young defensemen - or lose a contract like Jason Garrison's - it would likely have to part with a promising prospect.
One candidate appears to be Russian wing Nikita Gusev.
Gusev's rights could be dealt to the Golden Knights today, per source. Russian site Sovsport.ru also reported a trade is "likely." Gusev, 24, has one more year left on his deal with SKA.
Gusev, a Lightning seventh-round pick in 2012, is a talented scorer in the KHL, racking up 24 goals (and 71 points) in 57 games. His linemate, Vadim Shipachyov, has already signed with Vegas. Another one, Evgeny Dadonov, could be heading there too, making for an interesting Russian reunion.
Now, there's no guarantee Gusev's rights are dealt, but it's been part of the discussions with Vegas. Tampa Bay has previously offered Gusev just an AHL-only deal or a two-way deal, but the talented winger is enjoying a prominent role with SKA.
Whether Gusev has any immediate plans or interest in coming to North America remains to be seen. As of recently, Gusev was believed to be taking a wait and see approach to see how this year goes. If a Russian reunion is a potential in Vegas, maybe that could change his mind.
So if you're Lightning GM Steve Yzerman, it could go a few ways. You could trade a prospect who may never play in the NHL, or at least in the immediate future. Or you trade a player who comes to the NHL in a year and becomes a dynamic playmaker, one good friend, Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov, is very high on. They played together for Russia at the recent World Championships.
But if Tampa Bay wants to ensure it holds onto unprotected defensemen Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek, or shed some salary, it could be a price it has to pay.