It was announced by the New York Rangers today that the organization has added left-handed defenseman Erik Gustafsson on a one-year deal worth $825,000 until the end of the season. The understanding is that he and Zachary Jones will compete for the final roster spot on the left-hand side of the defensive core with guys like Ben Harpur providing competition. For the $825,000 they’re paying him, this is a really good value contract.
Gustafsson is coming off of a career-year split between the Washington Capitals and the Toronto Maple Leafs with 7 goals and 35 assists for 42 points in 70 games. He’s the kind of player that will provide a little bit of offense from the back end and he will allow Braden Schnieder to remove the shackles when he’s playing with the puck. Gustafsson is so offensively gifted that it should increase the production of those around him.
Whether or not Gustafsson will quarterback the second powerplay unit remains to be seen, but there’s a solid chance that he could be a third-pairing defenseman who comes over the boards on the second powerplay unit and puts up points. This is more or less the role he was asked to fill in Washington last year and he did that so well that the Capitals were able to flip him at the deadline for a younger defender.
Let’s not place unrealistic expectations on the Swedish journeyman defender, this will be his seventh different NHL club for a man that has only been in the league for 8 years. There’s a reason he has bounced around so much. His defensive frailties can leave you wanting more, but there is no denying that he will help the team in the right situation and that he could be a positive asset to have as we get into the season.
Gustafsson has a career total of 39 goals and 152 assists for 191 points across 379 NHL games. It’s not a particularly special production, but there is enough in that to make it reasonable for someone like the Rangers who are desperate for bargain bin players to take a flyer on the former Flyer and see if he can be the kind of player that Laviolette and the coaching staff need to have success.