It appears that GM Stan Bowman is continuing to add depth to the Chicago Blackhawks' prospect pool. This time, he has returned to the familiar: a Swedish defenseman. The team has signed 23-year-old defenseman Erik Gustafsson to an entry-level contract, according to reports Thursday morning.
Gustafsson is a 6'0, 176-pound, left-handed shot defenseman. Originally selected in the fourth round (93rd overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft by the Edmonton Oilers, Gustafsson has played for Frölunda of the Swedish Hockey League for the past two seasons. Last season, he posted 29 points (four goals, 25 assists) in 55 games with Frölunda. He also recorded six goals and 13 assists in 13 games in the Champions Hockey League, the top European tournament that features several teams from the first-tier leagues of at least six European countries.
Gustafsson began playing for Nynäshamns IF, before moving to Djurgården's junior system (Marcus Kruger's former team) from 2008-10 on their J18 team and 2010-12 on the J20 team.
To be clear, this is not the 26-year-old of the same name who previously played for the Philadelphia Flyers. From eliteprospects.com:
A skilled defenseman with some nice offensive skills. Can quarterback the powerplay and able to log big minutes. Has good vision and an edge to his game. Good release.
Unlike the Blackhawks' other recent signing, Russian forward Artemi Panarin, there is no indication that Gustafsson has received any "out clause" in his contract. That leaves open the possibility for him to spend next season providing depth in Rockford, which may be useful as the Hawks figure out their blue line behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
While the Hawks are still in the playoffs, Bowman hasn't wasted any time stocking up on options for what should be an active offseason. It's hard to say how all of these guys will ultimately fit on the roster, but at least the Hawks won't be staring at an empty cupboard.