On Sunday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks decided to gas-up the ol’ Gus Bus once again, signing defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal, worth $800,000. Gustafsson had been in training camp with the New York Islanders on a PTO deal, but had been released from camp without a deal.
After a strong camp with the Islanders, Erik Gustafsson has been released from his PTO and hearing he will sign with the Blackhawks. Had a 60-point season in Chicago in 2018-19. @TSNHockey @TheAthletic
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) October 10, 2021
You’ll remember Gustafsson from his time with the Blackhawks where he spent parts of five seasons with the organization in the AHL and NHL. In his NHL career, Gustafsson has skated in 250 games, 214 of them coming with Chicago. His best season was the 2018-19 campaign where he tallied 60 points in 79 games with the Blackhawks, finishing sixth in the league in scoring for defensemen. The following season in 2019-20, Gustafsson was not able to replicate his offensive production and was traded at the trade deadline to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick, which the Blackhawks used to draft Wyatt Kaiser in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Since his time with the Blackhawks ended, Gustafsson has played with the Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens most recently. He skated in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games with Montreal this past postseason, scoring one goal and three points.
Look…*sigh*…his defensive abilities are what they are. With injuries to Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk to start the season, the Blackhawks were getting thinner in their NHL-level defensive depth. His offensive skills, when used appropriately, can be an asset to a team, especially a team like Chicago who could use a second powerplay defenseman and a veteran third-pairing player.
But all that said, how can I put this nicely? He’s porous defensively and even when he was sheltered in his time with the Blackhawks, he still was a liability on the ice. For the “new-look” defensive group of the Blackhawks, whose goal was to be better defensively and better at shot-suppression, this move “ain’t it,” as the kids say. Maybe I’ll be wrong, maybe he won’t even play more than a few games, maybe he’ll be a turnstile again? Who knows?