Erik Gustafsson was the only PTO at the New York Islanders training camp. And by all accounts, he was doing well in his tryout with the Islanders. Of course, we never heard Barry Trotz say much about Gustafsson, but no news is sometimes good news.
Through five preseason games, the former Blackhawk put up four points (all assist). Of those four points, three came on the power play. That production lead the team in scoring through the pre-season. It impressed a number of fans, myself included.
But now, reports are suggesting that Gustafsson had his PTO deal with the Islanders terminated and that he’s joining his former club on a one-year deal.
New York Islanders PTO Erik Gustafsson signs with Chicago Blackhawks
On Sunday, it was reported that Gustafsson has his PTO ended and that he signed a one-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks with an $800,000 cap hit. So now what? Remember, the New York Islanders were looking to see if Gustafsson could help fill the void left in the Nick Leddy trade with Detroit. Without Leddy, the Islanders didn’t have a recognized puck mover. Again, now what?
First, on the departure. It could be that the Islanders weren’t willing to offer Gustafsson a one-way deal like he got in Chicago or offer him the money he’s reportedly getting from the Blackhawks.
Keep in mind that Gustafsson was, at best, the sixth defenseman in the Isles defensive depth chart. Sebastian Aho, a fifth-round pick from 2017, was right behind Gustafsson in that depth chart.
Aho has benefited from being around the Islanders defensive system for years now. Oh, and he also carries a $725,000 capt hit. That’s below the minimum $750,000, but his deal was signed last year when the minimum was lower. It might be only $75,000 lower but every penny counts for the Isles who are right up against the cap ceiling.
And again, it’s important to note that Aho is quite familiar with how the Islanders operate.
So, as I said previously, what now?
Well, it seems that the Islanders are getting ready to run a blue line that consists of the following seven players:
Of course, this assumes Lou didn’t make a trade for a defenseman. There isn’t an established or obvious Leddy replacement in this group. But, with Chara paired next to Dobson, we might see the right-shot 12th overall pick in 2018 step up and be more of a puck carrier.
The roster isn’t due till Monday at 5 PM so this might change (if Lou makes that aforementioned trade), but as it stands now, this is what the Islanders are likely going to run out to start the season.
Robin Salo isn’t mentioned here. And that isn’t because he doesn’t deserve the spot. It’s just better for him to spend some time in the AHL where he’ll play 76 some odd games in a top-four role and with a significant role on the power play rather than be the team’s seventh d-man.
You also have to factor in that his NHL cap hit is $842,500. Another $117,500 more than Sebastian Aho’s cap hit. Every penny matters.