Editorials

Chicago Blackhawks Have Decisions to Make Defensively at Trade Deadline

By Samuel Boland
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) controls the puck during a game between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 20, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 20: Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) controls the puck during a game between the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks on January 20, 2019, at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Chicago Blackhawks
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 17: Jesper Fast #17 of the New York Rangers trips up Erik Gustafsson #56 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Trade Erik Gustafsson

It’s somewhat of a shame, but I see it as the only legitimate solution presently available.

Erik Gustafsson has been electric offensively this season. He has the fourth-most points on the team this season, trailing only Kane, Toews and DeBrincat.

Not terrible company to be in.

Additionally, Gus has been the point-man on the Blackhawks power play which was dead last in power play percentage prior to Dec 18., however rose to first since then. A better look:

Gustafsson has been an exciting player to watch this season, a rarity on a struggling Blackhawks roster. His offensive talent at 5-on-5 and on the man-advantage alike are simply undeniable.

That’s exactly why the Chicago Blackhawks need to trade him.

At the end of the day, this might be the highest the Chicago Blackhawks could ever sell on Gustafsson.

It would hurt to see one of the few entertaining players on the roster go, but the ‘Hawks don’t want to be entertaining.

They want to win.

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Gustafsson has been a liability defensively and no number of charts or numbers could express that enough. He’s been absolutely horrendous in the ‘Hawks’ own zone and they can’t afford that moving forward.

For a team who struggles defensively as it is, Gustafsson does more to hurt them in their own zone than he does help.

That said, Gustafsson’s lack of defensive production could be hidden if he played for a strong defensive team. He could skate low, third pairing minutes against favorable matchups and power play time. That alone would be huge for a team trying to put their roster over the edge.

Unfortunately, the Blackhawks need a lot more than a power play specialist.

Additionally, Adam Boqvist is anticipated to be the one stepping into that power play role next season. Furthermore, guys like Ian Mitchell and Nicolas Beaudin will be competing for roster spots next season, further crowding the already tight Blackhawks blue line.

My question is, why not sell high on Gustafsson when you have the chance? The Blackhawks need defensemen who can actually play defense and he simply does not cut it. Moving Gus now would not only allow for the highest return on him, but it would also lessen the surplus which currently exists at the defense position.

Not only that, but he is perhaps the most valuable expendable trade chip the Blackhawks have.

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What do you think, Blackhawks fans? Should the ‘Hawks sell high on Gustafsson? Should they move other defensemen who play more insignificant roles like Forsling, Dahlstrom or Koekkoek? Or, should they keep their prospects and make a move closer to the draft? I’ll look forward to talking about it in the comments.

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