The Chicago Blackhawks — per Swedish online news source GT Expresen — have reportedly signed Swedish defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a two year entry level deal with the club.
Philadelphia Flyers fans were somewhat bummed. Born in 1988, defenseman Erik Gustafsson — signed as a free agent originally by the Flyers following three seasons at Northern Michigan University — was short but effective. Spending the majority of his tenure with the Flyers on their farm team in Adirondack, Gustafsson was a reliable call-up when needed.
Only… he’s the wrong Erik Gustafsson.
The Blackhawks, in reality, have inked 23-year old Swedish blue liner Erik Gustafsson to an entry level deal — and this Gustafsson, originally a 2012 fourth round pick of the Edmonton Oilers, has a much higher projected talent ceiling.
The six foot one Swedish skater has split his career thus far between Djurgardens IF-Stockholm of the Swedish Elite League and Frolunda HC, where he’s developed a reputation as a smart offensive blue liner. With twenty-nine points over his last fifty-three games with Frolunda, this Gustafsson — a member of the 2011 U20 Swedish World Junior Championships roster — will report to Rockford next season.
Although he’s projected to be a smart defenseman and is arguably a good pickup for the club, though, it’s interesting that the club is replacing their most recently departed blue line prospect with one of a similar skill set and caliber. Through the signing of Gustafsson, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman has lessened the sting of the Antoine Vermette trade just a tad — and although there’s a possibility that Gustafsson will reach a higher talent ceiling than Klas Dahlbeck (now a part of the long-term plans with the Arizona Coyotes), the signing still points to a replacement for the team’s less-than-perfect trade deadline move.
It also, of course, could be the team’s way of bringing on cheaper NHL-ready players in preparation of a salary cap crisis next season.