The New York Islanders are bringing in veteran defenseman Erik Gustafsson to training camp on a professional tryout offer (PTO), as first reported by NHL insider Chris Johnston Thursday.
A five-year veteran, the 29-year-old has bounced around during his NHL career, making stops with the Calgary Flames, Philadelphia Flyers, and Montreal Canadiens after spending the first three-plus years of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks.
He has experienced a steep drop-off in production ever since a 2018-19 season in which he was considered a top blueliner of the future. In 79 games that year with the Blackhawks, he recorded 17 goals and 43 assists (60 points) with a minus-6 rating.
Over the next two seasons, he’s recorded just seven goals and 34 assists in 95 games with a -10 rating.
Gustafsson is an offensive-minded defenseman, which has provided significant risk for the teams he’s had cups of coffee with since being dealt away from the Blackhawks. However, this kind of offensive promise is something the Islanders could hope to hone in on in an attempt to potentially mold him into a proper replacement for Nick Leddy.
Leddy was the Islanders’ most active two-way defenseman before salary-cap constraints forced team president and GM Lou Lamoriello to trade him to the Detroit Red Wings. It left a sizable hole in the team’s league-best defense on the second pairing alongside Scott Mayfield.
Gustafsson possesses a left-handed shot to complement Mayfield’s right-handedness and has plus skating ability — not to the extent of Leddy’s speed and finesse — to potentially become a cheap replacement on that second pair.