Nikita Gusev becomes a free agent days before the deadline.

An option for teams on a budget?

HockeyFeed

An interesting name has been added to those available ahead of the National Hockey League's trade deadline on Monday, but if this player is in fact picked up it won't be via a trade.

According to a report from NHL insider Chris Johnston, veteran forward Nikita Gusev has cleared waivers after being placed on waivers by the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Now normally this would not be a newsworthy occurrence, however the move in this case was designed to allow the Devils and Gusev to mutually terminate his contract. This means that Gusev suddenly finds himself as an unrestricted free agent just days ahead of the NHL's deadline, a move that in theory has made him available to be signed by any team that would want him. 

It came as no surprise to see Gusev clear waivers today, although he remains a serviceable player he was carrying a cap hit of $4.5 million which made him a much less attractive option to NHL teams. I don't believe a single team would have given any kind of serious thought to claiming him at that price, but with Gusev an unrestricted free agent now he could in theory be signed to a new deal with a much more manageable cap hit.

Gusev has a relatively underwhelming season with the Devils, recording 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 total points over his 20 games with the team during the regular season. His previous season, his first inthe NHL, say him put up 13 goals and 31 assists for a combined 44 points in 66 games with the Devils.

Although I don't think there will be a huge lineup of teams clamoring for Gusev's services ahead of the deadline, the fact that he could in theory be brought in on a league minimum type of contract will make him attractive to some. Any team unsure about their depth at the forward position or even teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, all of whom have been trying to add offense while dealing with the financial concerns of their respective organizations, may seriously consider him as an option.