Despite his impressive development over the past two years, the Chicago Blackkhawks could find themselves in trouble with defenseman Erik Gustafsson. The 27-year-old has developed far better than they hoped. After a couple years in the AHL, he established himself with solid half-season in 2017-18 and then followed it up with a dominant year last season. If he continues on that course, unfortunately, the team might not be able to afford him when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.
Gustafsson, signed out of Finland four years ago, posted an impressive year in 2018-19, scoring 17 goals and posting 60 points and has quietly established himself as a top-line defender for the Blackhawks. In a mailbag column, The Athletic’s Mark Lazerus (subscription required) writes that if Gustafsson continues his success, the team may be forced to trade him at the trade deadline as they likely wouldn’t have the money to pay a top-line defender with their salary cap. Chicago has little money freeing up next year besides their goaltending combination of Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner and they will have to replace that. On top of that, the have a pair of restricted free agents who each should command significant contracts in Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome. Regardless, if he commands a significant contract, that could cause a problem if Chicago finds itself in a playoff run.
It might be an easy decision if Chicago is out of the playoff race early and the Blackhawks might be able to nab a first-round pick in exchange for him as Lazerus points out that many teams would be willing to move a late first-round pick for a high quality defenseman.
- Sticking with the Blackhawks, NBC Sports’ Charlie Roumeliotis writes that perhaps the most impressive player in Chicago’s development camp was defenseman Adam Boqvist, the team’s eighth-overall pick in 2018. According to Chicago’s player development coach Brian Campbell, Boqvist was impressive for a young player, who just turned 19, but the young blueliner still needs time to develop. “Yeah, I was impressed,” Campbell said. “Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.”
- In an interview with Nashville Predators general manager David Poile, The Athletic’s Joe Rexrode (subscription required) writes that the GM strongly believes that center Kyle Turris just had a bad season last year. The 30-year-old Turris played in just 55 games, scoring just seven goals and 23 points, not good numbers for a team playing him $6MM for another five seasons. Poile believes that he played impressively for Team Canada at the World Championships and should have a bounce-back season. “I think he’s very happy here,” Poile said. “I don’t think he’s, and I hate speaking for him, but he’s not happy with either how we’re using him or how he’s played. And those are both tied in to each other. So we have to hope and believe after all the conversations and our knowledge of him over many years of success in the National Hockey League, that he’s going to come back and we’ll just chalk this up to a bad year. … That is the question. We want the Kyle Turris that we first traded for. And that’s both on him and on us.”