Earlier on Wednesday, the Golden Knights made a big addition to their back end with the acquisition of Alec Martinez. If they have their way, they may not be done there as Jesse Granger of The Athletic reports (Twitter link) that Vegas has shown interest in Blackhawks blueliner Erik Gustafsson.
The 27-year-old picked up 60 points last season to finish sixth in the NHL in scoring by a defenseman. However, he hasn’t been anywhere near as productive this year; although he leads all Chicago blueliners in points, he only has 26 points in 58 games. He recently admitted that his contract situation – he’s a pending unrestricted free agent – has weighed on him this year.
Vegas had to do considerable salary cap maneuvering simply to fit Martinez in which involved moving Alex Tuch to LTIR and recalling three players so their cap space is limited. However, with Gustafsson carrying a $1.2MM cap hit (just $500K above the league minimum), it’s one that they should be able to afford.
However, many other teams can also afford someone at that price tag and while his numbers are down, Gustafsson is still one of the more intriguing blueliners out there that could be moved by Monday’s trade deadline. Contenders could use him in a sheltered role with power play time which is probably his ideal role anyway so Chicago should have considerable interest outside of Vegas.
The Golden Knights have shown a distinct preference to avoid rental players but with nearly $69MM in cap commitments to just a dozen players for next season, it’s unlikely that they would be able to afford to give Gustafsson an extension. That means for this occasion at least, they’ll have to go against that strategy.