Stop us (actually, don’t, keep reading) if you have heard this before, but a former Blackhawk is making his way back to Chicago.
The Blackhawks announced on Monday the team had signed Erik Gustafsson to a one-year, $800,000 contract to rejoin the squad after spending last season between the Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) October 11, 2021
Gustafsson had been competing in the New York Islanders’ training camp on a professional tryout, but was released from the team and subsequently signed with the Blackhawks. According to NBC Sports Chicago Blackhawks Insider Charlie Roumeliotis, the team contacted Gustafsson expressing interest on Friday, and the deal came together fairly quickly from there.
The move came in light of two Hawks defenders, Caleb Jones and Wyatt Kalynuk, sustaining injuries last week. The two were expected to land spots on Chicago’s opening night roster, but their injuries have now temporarily opened a pair of openings on the blue line. While many assumed those spots would be taken by players like Nicolas Beaudin, Jakub Galvas or Ian Mitchell, General Manager Stan Bowman opted to return to the former player well instead and came up with Gustafsson, who will likely slot in on the opening night roster in one of the open spots.
Chicago fans are quite familiar with the much-maligned Gustafsson, as the Swede spent parts of four seasons with the Blackhawks, accumulating 116 points (28 goals, 88 assists) in 214 games during that stretch.
Gustafsson, originally a 2012 fourth-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers who signed as a free agent with the Blackhawks in 2015, was dealt to the Calgary Flames at the 2020 trade deadline in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020, which the Hawks used to select defenseman Wyatt Kaiser.
Gustafsson will wear the same number, 56, that he wore during the majority of his first stint with the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks announced three other roster moves on Sunday, assigning Alexander Nylander to the Rockford IceHogs and placing goaltenders Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban on waivers. Delia and Subban both cleared waivers on Monday, but Nylander’s assignment came as a sudden surprise to many, as it had been assumed the Swede required waivers to be sent to the IceHogs. However, the NHL ruled Nylander’s waivers exemption status was allowed to slide to this season after missing all of last season due to injury.
While keeping both Delia and Subban in the organization obviously provides solid depth in net, it also creates a potentially ugly logjam in the crease for the IceHogs, as Rockford already has Cale Morris and Arvid Soderblom in the cage. Even if Morris is sent to the Indy Fuel, a three-headed monster in Rockford featuring both Delia and Subban is likely not an ideal situation, as it would be taking playing time away from the younger netminders.
The Blackhawks finalized their opening night roster on Monday afternoon, announcing their final training camp transactions. In addition to sending Delia and Subban to Rockford, the team also assigned MacKenzie Entwistle and Philipp Kurashev to the IceHogs. The Hawks also placed Jones on long-term injured reserve and Kalynuk and Alec Regula on season-opening injured reserve.
The season-opening injured reserve designation is important, as it alters both players’ cap hits for the season. The calculations vary based on a player’s experience, but for both Kalynuk and Regula, being players with two-way contracts with less than 50 games of NHL experience, their 2021–22 cap hit is multiplied by the total NHL accrued days in the previous season and then divided by the total number of days in the previous season. So, essentially, their cap hits are pro-rated based on their time spent on the Blackhawks’ roster last season. According to CapFriendly, Kalynuk will now carry a cap hit of $422,629, while Regula will carry a cap hit of just $37,356.
With the transactions, Chicago’s opening night roster is set. However, it is important to note the roster can (and likely will) change prior to the team’s first game of the season. But, in the meantime, here are the 23 players on the Blackhawks’ opening night roster.
Calvin de Haan
Season-opening injured reserve (2)
The Hawks will open their regular season on Wednesday, traveling to Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop is slated for 9 p.m. CDT.