Instant analysis: Flyers bolster blue line with Erik Gustafsson

NHL: MAR 04 Blue Jackets at Flames
CALGARY, AB – MARCH 04: Calgary Flames Defenceman Erik Gustafsson (56) warms up before an NHL game where the Calgary Flames hosted the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 4, 2020, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire)

The Flyers have been relatively quiet in free agency so far, but they made a minor splash on Monday by bolstering their blueline. The team signed free agent Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal worth $3M. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Gustafsson brings to the Flyers

Formerly a fourth-round pick of the Oilers back in 2012, the 28-year-old is a left-handed defenseman coming off of a slightly down year. He was traded to the Flames ahead of the deadline, scoring 3 points in 7 games and a further 4 in 10 postseason appearances. Prior to that, he tallied just 26 points in 59 games for the Blackhawks.

It was the year before that carried the most intrigue. Gustafssson broke out in a big way, putting up 60 points, finishing sixth in the NHL among defensemen.

The Flyers craved a puck-moving defenceman who can light the lamp and create opportunities for his teammates, much in the way that Shayne Gostisbehere once did. Whether or not that’s still the case remains to be seen.

With so much uncertainty over Ghost’s future in Philadelphia, signing a low-risk, potentially high-reward D-man built in the same vein does make a ton of sense.

While Gustafsson has a reputation for being sporadic on defense, his contributions offensively might be enough to provide a spark on special teams and beyond for for the Flyers.

The defense moving forward

The Flyers blueliners will be a very different group next year. Matt Niskanen has retired, Justin Braun re-signed, and a lot of question marks now raised over Ghost’s future. It will be very intriguing to see what the team do with Gostisbehere after this signing, but it’s clear the team want to continue bringing cheap and cheerful veterans to mentor a very young corps.

The impact of Matt Niskanen on Ivan Provorov was immeasurable and it might be that the team foreshadows a similar level of mentoring for Gustafsson, who will now be playing on his fourth NHL team and has experienced his fair share of highs and lows.

This is a very low-risk, high-reward move for the Flyers, especially if they can get him firing at a clip close to what we saw in that explosive 2018-19 campaign.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire