ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks traded defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the Flames on Monday.
The pre-deadline move by Hawks general manager Stan Bowman finally ended weeks of speculation as Gustafsson neared the end of his Chicago tenure. The Hawks will reportedly receive a third-round draft pick in exchange.
Gustafsson was a 2018-19 breakout star for the Hawks, ranking sixth among all NHL defensemen with 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists) and providing a large boost to the long-maligned power play.
He fell back to earth this season, however, tallying just 26 points (and only six goals) through 59 games and also struggling defensively.
Given his upcoming UFA status and the fact that young Adam Boqvist has largely taken over his role, he’d been discussed frequently as an almost certain piece of trade bait prior to Monday’s trade deadline. He admitted last Thursday he’d been having a difficult time avoiding the chatter.
“I try not to look at the phone or hear anything on the TV or radio or anything, but it’s hard,” he said. “It’s on here [at Fifth Third Arena] every time, too. But just like I said before, if this happens, it’s happening. It’s something I can’t control.”
He was then a last-second healthy scratch Friday against the Predators to avoid an untimely injury, and did not travel with the team for Sunday’s road game in Dallas. His exclusion in the waning days made it all but guaranteed Monday would be Gustafsson’s last day on the roster.
Married with two kids, Gustafsson said he’d already talked with his wife about the possibility of a trade and said “she’s ready if it’s happening.”
His cheap $1.2 million cap hit made him attractive to the Flames, who were tight against the salary cap but managed to acquire both Gustafsson and former Kings blue-liner Derek Forbort to boost their defensive depth.