What is Erik Gustafsson’s Value to the Chicago Blackhawks and the League?
By Michael Wagner
One of the few “assets” the Chicago Blackhawks have heading into the trade deadline is a defenseman, Erik Gustafsson but what is his actual value around the league and even to the Blackhawks.
It has been a season of regression for Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson, who has seen his offensive production plummet and his defensive ability, or lack thereof, continue to yield negative results. While he still leads Blackhawks defenseman in scoring he is miles behind his 60 point pace that he set last season with only 25 points in 56 games this season.
Another thing to consider is that Gustafsson is going to be a free agent at the end of this season, and it sounds as though negotiations have yet to begin between the defenseman and management. This lack of negotiation is interesting and really puts Gustafsson’s future in question.
So where does that leave Blackhawks?
I guess it should technically be what should the Blackhawks do with the offensively gifted, defensive lacking defenseman? I think the consensus amongst fans and media members is that the Blackhawks should look to move him at the deadline.
While Gustafsson’s value is not at its height like it was in the off-season, teams are always looking to add depth on the back-end and even help to develop their power play. These are two areas where I think Gustafsson possesses tons of value, he is still a good power-play quarterback (despite recent struggles) and he is a player that if used in the right situation could provide value to a playoff contender.
Gustafsson’s position with the Blackhawks has always rested on a knives edge, even with the break out 60 point season. Always seen purely as a one-dimensional player that, even with his strong offensive play, has never been seen as a lock to continually reach that pinnacle of 2018-2019 production, almost seeing that season as a fluke.
With where Gustafsson’s production currently sits it is fair to wonder if last year’s campaign was a fluke but even with his dip in production will still likely hit between the 30 and 40 point mark which will probably put him amongst the top 50 scoring defenseman, not the top 10.
So what does a 30-40 point, offensive defenseman get you at the deadline?
The answer is likely not much.
Maybe a mid-round draft pick, a combination of low picks or maybe a middling prospect but really you aren’t looking at a return that nets you a high draft pick (in a stacked draft) or a top 10 prospect so is it worth it for them to pull the trigger on a move like that. Yes, it actually does because it creates space.
While Ian Mitchell likely won’t get a chance to join the Blackhawks this season, with the University of Denver looking like Frozen Four contenders, but by moving a piece out it makes them look more attractive in the sense that there is a hole Mitchell could fill as soon as he can sign his entry-level deal. Mitchell’s skill set is similar to that of Gustafsson in that he is a dynamic offensive talent that still will need tuning in the defensive end but would you rather take that the time to develop the 21-year-old Mitchell or the 27-year-old Gustafsson?
The answer to me is clear that Gustafsson’s future with this team is coming to the end, it would be wise if they could use Gustafsson to not only gain another asset for the team but also create room for the Blackhawks future blue line.