Blackhawks reward David Gust for AHL excellence with NHL contract

Gust, a forward from Orland Park, signed a two-year deal with a $762,500 salary-cap hit Thursday.

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David Gust scores for the Rockford IceHogs.

The Blackhawks signed David Gust to a two-year contract Thursday.

Brad Repplinger/Rockford IceHogs

DALLAS — In need of a spare forward for the rest of their road trip, the Blackhawks signed forward David Gust to a two-way, two-year NHL contract Thursday and then promptly called him up.

He’ll carry a $762,500 salary-cap hit through the end of next season. It’s a deserved payday for Gust, 29, who has been excellent on an AHL-only contract with the Rockford IceHogs this year. He leads the team with 24 goals and 50 points in 51 games; league-wide, that puts him tied for fourth in goals and tied for eighth in points.

He has been especially hot lately, too, having scored twice Wednesday to give himself five points in his last three games.

It’s a storybook turn in the Orland Park native’s career. Never drafted, he spent four years at Ohio State and was in his sixth year in the minor leagues, having spent the previous two with the Wolves. He was also on a two-way NHL contract with the Hurricanes in 2020-21 but never got in an NHL game.

Gust becomes the Hawks’ 13th healthy forward. They played Wednesday with no spares because Jonathan Toews (health-related absence), Reese Johnson (concussion protocol), MacKenzie Entwistle (wrist injury) and Jujhar Khaira (not quite ready to return from a back injury) are all currently unavailable.

He might be more than the Hawks’ 13th forward come Saturday night against the Sharks, however, considering the real possibility of trades in the meantime. While waiting for clarity on Patrick Kane, Sam Lafferty is most likely to be the first forward moved.

Drew acquired

The Hawks also completed a small trade with the Ducks on Thursday, swapping prospect forward Josiah Slavin for prospect forward Hunter Drew.

Slavin’s role as a grinder probably didn’t fit Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson’s imagined style for the Hawks, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him carve out a fourth-line spot in Anaheim.

Drew, 24, is in the final year of his entry-level contract after transitioning from defenseman to forward last year. He made two NHL appearances last season, had tallied 11 points in 44 games for San Diego of the AHL this season and will be assigned to Rockford.

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