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Flyers Sign Erik Gustafsson to a one-year contract

October 12, 2020, 5:31 PM ET [239 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The Philadelphia Flyers have signed 28-year-old defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a one-year contract for $3 million. Gustafsson is a very good power play quarterback and has a reputation as a fine puck mover but is strictly average as a defender.

Gustafsson had a monster 2018-19 season while still with the Chicago Blackhawks, racking up 17 goals and 60 points. He came back down to earth this past season and was dealt to the Calgary Flames at the deadline. Gustafsson posted four points in 10 playoff games.

Gustafsson is a player who needs a high concentration of offensive zone starts to be at his most effective because he tends to be on the ice both for a high number of scoring chances for his team but also an even high number of opposition chances. He does have a little bit of physicality and he competes, but he's not a player that ideally would be matched up against an opponent's top scoring line. His primary skill sets are when he has the puck on his stick -- fine outlet passer, good at getting shots on the net. He can play on either side of a defense pairing.

Gustafsson has been a second-pairing, 20-minute defenseman in his NHL career, but his coaches need to manage his matchups. Gustafsson is NOT a suitable Niskanen replacement in that way. During his career-best season, Gustavsson played with former Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith but the duo started about 60% of their shifts in the offensive zone. The Flyers rely on Ivan Provorov's pairing to take about 54% of his 5-on-5 zone starts in D-zone.

Right now, at least, it seems as if one of Phil Myers or Travis Sanheim would bump up from the second pair to play with Provorov and Gustafsson will play with the other. Justin Braun will be on right defense on the third pair. Shayne Gostisbehere's role is unclear, but given the need for more D-zone minute burdens, Robert Hagg would seem to be the default left defenseman on the third pair, with Gostisbehere in limbo and Mark Friedman as the potential number 7. If I had to venture a wild guess right now as to default pairings, perhaps it could be Provorov with Myers, Sanheim with Braun and Hagg with Gustafsson.

As a UFA next summer, Gustafsson would not have to be protected in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft. Gostisbehere (who is one year younger and has two additional seasons left on his contract beyond 2020-21 is $1.5 million more expensive on the cap than Gustafsson.

A native of Nynashamn, Sweden, Gustafsson is not to be confused with a Flyers defenseman of the same name who played for the team in the early to mid 2010s.
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