The Calgary Flames made a pair of deadline acquisitions on Monday, adding Derek Forbort from Los Angeles and Erik Gustafsson from Chicago.
Today we’ll be asking five questions about Erik Gustafsson The Flames acquired Gustafsson for a 3rd round pick in 2020, which will be the higher of Calgary or Edmonton’s third round pick assuming James Neal gets two more goals.
We’ll be talking to Dave from Second City Hockey, our sister site covering the Blackhawks. If you want to read our article on Derek Forbort’s acquisition earlier in the week, click here.
1. Do Blackhawks fans feel like a 3rd round pick was enough for Gustafsson? What were you hoping they’d acquire in the weeks leading up to the deadline?
In a vacuum, getting a third-round pick in return for Gustafsson feels like a decent return for what he was doing this season. The issue is that he may have fetched a first-round pick at least year’s trade deadline or at the 2019 Draft because he had a 60-point season in 2018-19, which was sixth-best among NHL defensemen. But the Hawks decided to hang onto him during both of those trade-heavy times and, when his play regressed closer to the mean in 19-20, the Hawks were stuck with just a third-round pick. Anyone hoping for more was clinging to Gustafsson’s spike in trade value from last season.
2. How did the Blackhawks use Gustafsson in the lineup this year and last?
This season, he’s spent much of his time paired with either Duncan Keith or Connor Murphy, which isn’t a bad idea, considering that the defense-oriented nature of those two can make up for the offensive explorations Gustafsson will take at times. He usually bounced around in Chicago’s top four on the blue line but was typically utilized for more offensive zone starts to capitalize on what he can do. He was almost always the point man on Chicago’s top power play unit in the 18-19 season, although Adam Boqvist did steal some of that ice time during this season.
3. What do you think is a more accurate representation of Gustafsson, his 60 point season last year or his 26 points in 59 games this year?
Probably somewhere in the middle, of course. A 60-point season seemed like the absolute ceiling of Gustafsson’s ability, and it should be noted that he was largely responsible for an incredible surge of competency for Chicago’s power play last season that briefly made some in the organization think they were playoff-bound (Narrator: they were not). But there’s a significant amount of offensive creativity in his game. He isn’t an incredibly fast skater nor does he have a booming shot, but he was agile enough with good vision that allowed him to find open areas where he could create scoring chances. At times, he had a strong chemistry with Patrick Kane, which the Hawks tried taking advantage of by placing Kane’s forward line and Gustafsson’s D pairing on the ice for O-zone faceoffs.
4. Everybody talks about his offense, but is his defensive game really that bad?
His defense certainly isn’t good. Most of Gustafsson’s analytic numbers are in the middle of the pack among Chicago’s blue liners, but you’d expect them to be much higher considering how often he gets offensive zone starts. Some of his defensive miscues were just so egregious that it made him look worse than his teammates’ smaller, more subtle mistakes. Put it this way: if Gustafsson is working in the offensive zone, he can be a ton of fun to watch. But if he gets trapped in the defensive zone, he could be there a while and your heart rate won’t enjoy what transpires.
5. Do you think Chicago considered extending him? What do you think his camp might ask for this summer when he becomes a UFA?
I’d highly doubt it. Chicago has massive salary cap issues coming up this summer (a tradition unlike any other!) and there was virtually no way to keep him around. The drafting of Adam Boqvist, who has a similar skill set as Gustafsson but with a higher expected ceiling, meant that Gustafsson’s time in Chicago was running out. As for a new contract: Gustafsson may have been able to demand somewhere near $5 million if he’d put together another 60-point season. But considering his step back and lack of ability to play in three zones, I’d estimate his salary demands somewhere in the $3-$4 million AAV range right now.
by Michael MacGillivray