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Erik Gustafsson’s tenure with the Calgary Flames appears likely to be a short one.
The 28-year-old blueliner is scheduled to hit free agency in just three weeks and, according to one report, GM Brad Treliving has made no attempt at preventing him from doing so.
That the Flames only have four defensemen under contract for next season – one of whom just missed a full year of hockey due to injury – and still aren’t engaging in even preliminary discussions with Gustafsson is pretty telling. Especially considering they invested a 3rd round pick in him.
They had an up close and personal look and would rather pay the 3rd for 17 games than double down and give Gustafsson an extension.
I think he is a useful player if utilized properly but, in a vacuum, I have no problem with the Flames electing to walk away.
Gustafsson is an offense-only defender. He needs very cushy usage, and special treatment, to be effective. I’m talking soft competition at 5v5, a ton of offensive zone starts, and power play time.
If he doesn't get that, he is a massive liability. His in-zone defensive coverage is some of the worst you'll see and he is not somebody who is going to get involved physically.
I don’t think he is going to break the bank on a new deal – especially during these times – but he’s likely to command a few million per season. And I don't think the Flames should be committing that kind of money to somebody they have to protect.
They have Mark Giordano, Noah Hanifin, and Juuso Valimaki on the left side. Rasmus Andersson is the lone man on the right side of the depth chart right now. Theoretically, you could play Gustafsson on his off-hand but you don’t want him in the top-4 (Hanifin + Gustafsson would be nightmare fuel) and, again, spending millions to put him on a sheltered 3rd pair doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Treliving is smart to cut ties. The fit just isn't there.
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