CHICAGO – It’s the worst kept secret with the team right now, and they’re not even trying to hide it anymore.
On Friday night, despite being on the ice for morning skate, Erik Gustafsson was a late scratch from the lineup before a critical game against the Predators at the United Center. Now ahead of another contest of importance to their playoff chances against Dallas on Sunday, the front line defenseman is not going to travel with the team.
The NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, and the writing is on the wall that Gustafsson is headed elsewhere.
ROSTER NEWS: The #Blackhawks have recalled defenseman Lucas Carlsson from the Rockford IceHogs.
Carlsson will wear number 46 for the Blackhawks.
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) February 22, 2020
The team has already called up defenseman Lucas Carlsson from Rockford as the replacement for Gustafsson for at least the time being as the team approaches their final 21 games of the season.
For those who’ve followed the team, it’s not a major surprise, since the defenseman has figured to a target of teams in contention looking for help on the blue line. Currently, six points back of the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference with three more teams to climb, general manager Stan Bowman is most likely looking for deals that could benefit the team in the future rather than additions to aid the team now.
In his fourth year with the Blackhawks, Gustafsson is valued not only for his defense but also the ability to provide some spark on the offensive end as well. Last season, his 17 goals were tied for third amongst defensemen in the NHL and his 43 assists were eighth in the league at the position in 2018-2019, though his offensive numbers have dipped during this campaign.
In 59 games this season he has just six goals and 20 assists, but his value remains high for teams in contention. Hence you’ve probably seen the last of Gustafsson in a Blackhawks uniform as a very badly kept secret continues with the team.