Defenseman Erik Gustafsson and Blackhawks Agree to Extension


A report was floated yesterday by Mike Kelly of TSN that the Blackhawks are expected to announce, in the next few days, that they have agreed to an extension with pending restricted free agent defenseman Erik Gustafsson. According to Kelly, the deal is expected to be a two-year extension worth roughly $2.2M – $2.5M total.

As we mentioned on last night’s Rinkcast, this sets the Blackhawks up with six defensemen for next season, not counting Gustav Forsling. It is expected that Forsling will make the full-time jump to the NHL after two previous partial seasons.

This begs to question, though, is this the group of defensemen that Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville really want to go into battle with in September? Corey Crawford, if healthy, can mask many of the defensive lapses, but Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will be another year older.

The Blackhawks need experienced NHL talent to help solidify this current gaggle of defenders and, to steal a quote from Jaws, they are going to “need a bigger boat”.

Henri Jokihaju will be one year closer to the NHL, and Ian Mitchell will be on the horizon, but it remains to be seen if they are even close to prime time action.

This, of course, does not take into account the NHL entry draft in June, or pending UFA Jan Rutta.

The race to re-sign Gustafsson, in early March, is utterly bewildering. The money aside, Bowman is clogging up the roster with the same middle-of-the-road defenseman that have the Blackhawks missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade.

To be blunt, if there are teams clamoring to sign an Erik Gustafsson, then it is probably acceptable to let him go. He is a replaceable player that could probably easily be upgraded.

I have nothing against Gustafsson, or even Rutta. These guys are fine depth defenseman. One thing has become blatantly obvious with the season this organization is having; the Blackhawks need upgrades on defense. This is the organization’s biggest pressing need.

The last thing they need is a logjam of mediocre defenseman that they cannot do anything with before they have even gotten to the draft, much less well before the free agent period on July 1st.

Unless Stan Bowman already has a deal cooked up to unload one or two of these guys, we could all be in for another long season in 2018-19.

UPDATE: The deal was formally announced this morning.  No financial terms were disclosed.

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