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Erik Gustafsson returns to the Chicago Blackhawks on a 1-year deal. Can the defenseman rekindle his monster offensive output from 2018-19?

Phil Thompson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

The Chicago Blackhawks signed Erik Gustafsson to a one-year deal with an $800,000 salary-cap hit Monday, bringing back the defenseman for a second stint with the team.

The Hawks have a history of bringing players back, but Gustafsson admitted he wasn’t expecting it when he heard from Stan Bowman, the Hawks president of hockey operations and general manager, on Friday.

“Me and my wife (were) talking about it sometimes, but no,” Gustafsson said. “But I’m right here now and I’m very, very excited. Very happy to be here.”

Coach Jeremy Colliton said he didn’t know if Gustafsson will play in the season opener Wednesday.

“We know him well and I know him well,” Colliton said. “He’s comfortable and excited to be here and he also understands what he’s coming into. Nothing’s been promised as far as what exactly his role is going to be, but we do think he can help and it’s kind of up to him.”

Gustafsson had a monster offensive season in 2018-19 with 17 goals and 43 assists.

 

The secret?

“Played with Kaner,” he said with a laugh, referring to Hawks star Patrick Kane. “No, I think it’s confidence. I moved my feet a lot and played strong every play I played on the ice. I know I can do it again. I know I can (score) maybe not 60 points, but I know I can produce.”

Gustafsson last played for the Hawks in 2019-20 before they traded him to the Calgary Flames for a 2020 third-round pick, which they spent on defenseman Wyatt Kaiser.

“When we traded him, it’s not because we didn’t like him,” Colliton said. “We had a chance to get a pick and didn’t look like we were going to be in (the playoffs) at the time.”

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