Gustafsson most recently played with both the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers during the 2020-21 NHL season. He saw action in 29 games, scoring one goal and assisting on 11 others between the two teams.
Gustafsson was with the Blackhawks from 2015-16 through 2019-20, when he was traded to the Calgary Flames at the deadline. During those four seasons, he scored 28 goals and had 88 assists for a total of 116 points.
So, why make this deal for Gustafsson? Easy. He’s a solid depth defenseman and the Blackhawks got him dirt cheap. The last time he played for Chicago, he was being paid $1,200,000 AAV. This time around, he is cheaper and won’t be asked to do as much, as the defensive core is stronger than it was in 2019-20.
There’s little risk involved for the Blackhawks with this contract. If Gustafsson plays well, they can re-sign him – and they got a solid defenseman cheap. If he struggles, they could get rid of him at the trade deadline again or just not re-sign him in the offseason. He isn’t being paid a crazy amount where they’re almost forced to play him.
It’s hard to tell who Gustafsson’s defensive partner will be. Recently, Riley Stillman has been partnered with Seth Jones, Jake McCabe is with Connor Murphy, and Calvin de Haan is with Ian Mitchell. It might be a situation where they move Gustafsson around, but they have options.
More options will be available when Caleb Jones returns from injury. He is week-to-week with a left wrist strain and will miss the Blackhawks’ first game of the regular season on Wednesday.
Still, it will be interesting to see what head coach Jeremy Colliton does with all of his defensemen this season with this depth. It is fair to assume this defensive group will be one of the better ones Chicago has since they were making the playoffs every season.
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