Erik Gustafsson is a roller coaster of a player but do his high highs and low lows make him an asset of the Chicago Blackhawks come the trade deadline?
One thing is clear from the past two games, even though they were able to “upgrade” their defense in the off-season they made one distinct error. Not trading Erik Gustafsson at the high of his value.
Now we sit with Gustafsson having another roller coaster season, hurting his trade value on a nightly basis. Still on a solid 30 point pace he has not gotten anywhere close to the success he achieved offensively last season where he achieved career highs in goals, assists and points.
While Gus was still a terror in his own zone last season the spark that he provided for the offensive core and the power play was noticeable but this season with his offensive numbers taking a hit the gaffes on defense have only been magnified.
So where does this leave the Blackhawks?
They have a player who is such a boom or bust player, who when playing to his offensive potential is a dynamic offensive threat but his lack of consistency just really hurts his overall value in the trade market.
With Adam Boqvist continuing to get a look this season, with the glut of injuries, it would be nice to see Boqvist get more opportunities on the top power play unit to see if they have someone to fill that hole immediately. And while he is still in his rookie season has shown flashes of the offensive potential they need.
If Boqvist is adept to filling Gustafsson’s skates what could the Blackhawks be looking to get for the feast of famine defenseman?
Defense is a position of great need throughout the NHL and come trade deadline time they become hot commodities, even for middling defenseman. Below I have compiled a few from last year to give us some perspective on what the market could look like for Gustafsson if this downward trend continues heading into 2020.
The Columbus Blue Jackets acquire Adam McQuaid from the New York Rangers for defensman Julius Bergman, a 2019 4th round pick and a 2019 7th round pick.
The Calgary Flames acquire Oscar Fantenberg from the LA Kings for a conditions 2020 4th round pick.
The Buffalo Sabres acquire Brandon Montour from the Anaheim Ducks for Brendan Guhle and a 2019 1st round pick.
The Dallas Stars acquire Jamie Oleksiak from the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 2019 4th round pick.
When it comes to Gustafsson’s value, none of these players mentioned above have even sniffed the peak of Gustafsson’s offensive potential but looking at Gustafsson as purely a power play quarterback and liability on defense it is difficult to see them getting a prime return.
I could see Gustafsson as someone who could command a good collection of mid-round picks or a middling prospect and a mid-round pick but nothing like the return the Ducks received in the Montour trade last season. Something along the lines of the Lovejoy trade is what I am thinking Gustafsson’s value could be for the right team, a young roster player (bottom six forward or bottom pairing defenseman) and a 3rd round pick.
Now the prospects of trading Gustafsson would likely signal the Blackhawks raising the white flag on the season but in all honesty they would be better off moving on from Gustafsson sooner rather than later.