Flyers’ Erik Gustafsson Says Power Play Time Was “Big Part” of Signing

Photo Credit: Gerry Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s free agency period began on October 9, which might come as a bit of surprise to many and, according to Flyers Twitter, GM Chuck Fletcher. On the same day the league’s top free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo signed a massive seven-year, $61.6 million deal with the Vegas Golden Knights, Fletcher made an under-the-radar signing, inking former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a 1-year, $3 million contract.

No, this is not the same Erik Gustafsson who spent time with the Flyers organization from 2009-14. That 31-year-old is playing for Luleå HF in the SHL, averaging a point per game might I add.

This Erik Gustafsson is a much better player than the one who played roughly 30 games per season in his final three seasons with the Flyers. This Erik Gustafsson is a defenseman with plenty of skill in the offensive zone. He’s been quite the power play contributor, including an excellent 2018-19 season in which he racked up 4 goals and 14 assists on Chicago’s PP.

I asked Gustafsson whether or not having a legitimate chance at power play time was a factor in signing with the Orange & Black:

Transcription:

“Yeah, it did. I think the team has very good guys that can play on the power play. The Flyers are, not just on the power play, but the whole group, a good hockey team. If I can do my job on the power play, I think I can help the team win. That’s all I’m here to do. I’m trying to do my best every night when we play the game. It was a big part for sure because that’s my type of game. Seeing the whole team too, like the core, that was a big part, too.”

While his point production slipped a bit during the pandemic-shortened regular season, he’s just two years removed from a 60-point season. Wait a second. An offensively-gifted defenseman a few seasons removed from posting at least 60 points? Why does that sound so familiar? Oh, that’s right, the Flyers already had one of those on their roster making $4.5m annually against the cap. Could this be an indication that the Flyers are looking to move on from Shayne Gostisbehere in a move that could end up netting the team a difference of $1.5m entering a flat cap season? Possibly. Is it a lock? Far from it.

While it’s nice to add a power play threat to a team that was absolutely woeful with the man advantage in the postseason, it seems hard to believe that Chuck Fletcher is done retooling this roster. Gustafsson is a nice player, but he’s nowhere near the steady all-around defenseman the Flyers lost when Matt Niskanen shocked the hockey world when he opted to retire with a year remaining on his contract.

It would behoove the Flyers to find a steady, reliable defenseman to pair with Ivan Provorov, lest they risk seeing their top defenseman suffer a regression to his 2018-19 form. That, by the way, is not a guarantee, but unless there’s a major upgrade coming this offseason, the team can hardly afford for one of their top players to be anything other than on top of his game.

For more Flyers coverage, check out Snow The Goalie. Follow Snow The Goalie on Facebook and Twitter. Also be sure to tune into The Press Row Show as Anthony SanFilippo and Russ Joy preview every Flyers home game pregame and recap the first and second period action during intermission breaks  from press row of the Wells Fargo Center via the Crossing Broad Facebook page, YouTube Live, and Twitter, and their Twitter accounts (@AntSanPhilly @JoyOnBroad). 

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