How the Blackhawks Can Begin to Fix Their Crowded Blue Line

With one year remaining on Erik Gustafsson’s contract, and a surplus of defenseman, here is my solution to fixing fix the Blackhawks’ Gustafsson situation.

Erik Gustafsson has been with the Blackhawks for his entire career. Over the course of 3 seasons, Gustafsson has played 155 games with the Blackhawks and has put up 90 points.

It was not until this past season that Gustafsson has become an NHL regular. With Gustafsson comes great offensive ability, and unfortunately, bad defensive play.

Erik Gustafsson should be moved, just not from the team. Gustafsson should be moved to a forward position. The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of defensemen, a problem they have had before. Let’s see what they can do with Gus.

The Blackhawks could take the Dustin Byfuglien approach. Dustin Byfuglien was a defenseman for the Blackhawks back in 2010, and with so many good talented defenseman on the roster, the Blackhawks opted to move Byfuglien to the wing.

Byfuglien played a bigger role for the Blackhawks after they moved him to a forward position. Gustafsson does not have the size that Big Buff had, but at the same time, he could get in front of the net on the Blackhawks’ fourth line.

The Blackhawks could move their more offensively-minded defenseman to the wing on the Blackhawks’ fourth line. This would allow the ‘Hawks to still have Gus on the first power play unit, and an extra defenseman if someone falls to an injury.

Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan had injury problems last season so having Gustafsson around could help add security on the blue line. In the case of an injury, Gustafsson can slide back to the blue line for a game or two.

The Blackhawks have Gustafsson under contract till the end of the 2020 season, at $1.5 million, that is a steal. Resigning Gustafsson is not the main issue for the Blackhawks with players like Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat also on expiring contracts.

Trading Gustafsson this offseason, or during the season, might be an option. However, Gustafsson has a lot of offensive upside.

Erik Gustafsson played great last season with the puck mostly due the Blackhawks’ power play.

NHL Standard career statistics
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/29/2019.

Not many defenseman put up 60 points last season. At the same time, not many defenseman played as bad as Erik Gustafsson last season in their own end.

With a crowded Blackhawks blue line, moving Gus to the forward unit might be the best thing for everyone. It isn’t like Gustafsson is a top shutdown defenseman. Hehas been a liability in his own zone more than once a game.

Unless Erik Gustafsson is learning how to defend like Duncan Keith this offseason, moving Gus to forward is the best option for everyone. We will have to see how the opening roster for the Blackhawks shapes up later this summer.

With so many defenseman under contract, and competing for a roster spot in Chicago, the Blackhawks might have to carry 7 or 8 defenseman. With only a limited amount of ice time per game, playing Gustafsson on the fourth line and on the power play could help make the Blackhawks a better team.