The Flyers waited to come into the free agency pool and stride cautiously in on a one year $3 million dollar deal.
Erik Gustafsson is a 28-year-old defenseman, who last played for Chicago and Calgary in the 2019-2020 season. He is a left-handed shot and stands at 6’0 tall weighing 198 pounds. Last season he had 29 points (6 goals with 23 assists) in 66 regular-season games. He also added 4 assists over 10 games in the playoff bubble in Edmonton for the Flames.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher had this to say about his newest hire “Erik is a mobile and skilled puck-moving defenseman who has produced well offensively both at even-strength and on the power play,” said Fletcher. “We believe Erik will give us valuable minutes and be a nice addition to our group of young defensemen.”
Gustafsson’s breakout year was 2018-19 when in his first full season he scored 17 goals and added 43 assists for 60 points. He had 18 of his points, including 4 goals on the powerplay that season. During his career he’s averaged closed to 20 minutes of ice time a night (19:58) and can jump into the 2nd powerplay, having averaged 2:49 on the man advantage per game.
Breaking everything down to brass tacks, this could be a helpful and telling signing for the Flyers. He can’t replace Matt Niskanen in a 5 on 5 role but should be an upgrade on PP2 over the now-retired Nisky. He’s also only on a one-year deal, so won’t need to be protected in the expansion draft as he would not be eligible to be poached by the Seattle Kraken next year. He can also prover versatile, flipping to play either side of the ice.
What signing Gustafsson could mean is that the Flyers and Chuck Fletcher are sincere in their efforts to move Shayne Gostisbehere, and showing that by essentially signing his Swedish counterpart for $1.5 million dollars cheaper. He has similar limitations like needing more offensive zone starts to be effective, being an average defender, and really not being a good option for a first pairing.
Gustafsson makes the team a little bit better. They still need to find a way to replace Niskanen at even strength. Gustafsson’s ability to play both sides makes him an option to move around on the bottom two defense pairs, but these pairs are looking crowded now that Braun and Hagg are back, and Gostisbehere is still around. He may be the first real move of this offseason for the Flyers, but don’t expect the signing of Gustafsson to be the last.
In addition to this signing, the Flyers have also added Derrick Pouliot on a cheap 700k two way one year deal which helps replenish some AHL depth, though Puliot does have 202 games of NHL experience. Zayde Wisdom, the draft pick we profiled recently, also signed a three-year entry-level contract.