Who Better to Punctuate This Summer's Massive Migration of Talent to the New Jersey Devils Than The Goose Himself
You know, when the celebration of this offseason title finally subsides, there should be no shortage of apologies addressed to the man that turned a bad team with money to burn into one of the NHL’s most exciting rosters in the short time it typically takes for some fans to convince themselves that they are better at his job. Honestly, I want strong consideration given to constructing a confessional booth on the Prudential Center concourse between now and opening night for preseason use by any and every idiot that slandered Ray Shero for his reluctance to commit the sins of cap-strapped teams before him by falling victim to the fool’s errand that is free agency. I don’t know about you, but the irony of him being able to give Devils’ twitter exactly who they desperately wanted - with the shrewd acquisition of the best player outside the NHL - solely because he left them to spend a season-plus screaming into an empty void of an echo chamber while obsessing over the prospect of overpaying for past performance isn’t lost on me.
As for the actual player that serves as the next chapter of what’s been a quick and complete organizational rewrite, I’m not sure there’s anything other than his nationality that’s not to love. Once you get over the entirely understandable and otherwise undying trust issues that come with New Jersey signing another offensive-minded Russian, Nikita Gusev perfectly fits the bill of what the Devils openly prioritized at the very public request of their impending free agent of an MVP...
If absolutely nothing else, he is pretty much the personification of talent. He might not be the most physically imposing or fleet of foot of talent, but the skillset of someone that compares favorably to a New York Ranger that shall remain nameless are as undeniable on the ice as they are in the analytics...
How well it’ll translate to the NHL can obviously be questioned, but its existence can not. The player that owns two KHL MVP awards and the second highest scoring season in league history has star-power potential and he’s joining a team that hardly even needs him to fully realize it as he is presumably the final, complimentary piece to a formidable Top-6. With the risk of throwing in some ‘B’ level assets in order to pay an unproven commodity nine million over two years being minimized by the fact that the Devils don’t need full financial flexibility until those seasons have elapsed, it becomes pretty hard to envision it not being easily matched by the reward of rostering a preposterous amount of puck skills.
Whether or not the Goose takes flight towards the top of a lineup that’ll cater to his creativity remains to be seen, but Ray Shero’s laser-focused vision for the long-term future of the franchise he’s built from the barest of bones is not. Championship contention isn’t exactly around the corner, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than it was in April. That’s due in large part to the possibilities that patience provides, and those possibilities appear damn near endless with the Devils renovating their roster by adding Jack Hughes, P.K. Subban, Wayne Simmonds, Ty Smith, Nikita Gusev, and potentially Jesper Boqvist to a flock that’ll look almost unrecognizable for all the right reasons.