Erik Gustafsson PTO shows that the range is still not defined
Thusday, Chris Johnston reported that the New York Islanders were bringing in UFA left-handed defenseman Erik Gustafsson. The move seems to indicate that Lou Lamoriello has established his blue line for the 2021-22 season.
With the exception that Gustafsson’s agreement is only a professional trial (PTO). It’s not a real NHL contract. Which means the team’s blue line is yet to be defined.
New York Islanders’ roster undefined after Gustafsson’s PTO
It also means that it is possible that any defenseman currently under contract (or on a PTO) who is not necessarily tied to an NHL berth will have a chance to make the squad out of camp.
You have to think that Gustafsson is the favorite of the spot. He’s only three years out of a 60-point season with the Chicago Blackhawks. Clearly Lou wants to see if this Gustafsson is still there.
But there’s a reason he didn’t just sign a contract with Gustafsson. Lou isn’t sure Gustafsson can be the player he was a few years ago. Nor is it certain, as Matt O’Leary has pointed out, that Gustafsson can even play well in a defense-first system like the one employed by Barry Trotz.
Which means there will be an open competition for a left D on the roster during training camp. So guys like Thomas Hickey, Sebastian Aho, Samuel Bolduc, Robin Salo and Paul LaDue (who would apparently come to the island) will all have the chance to defend that spot on the roster.
So who takes Nick Leddy’s place on the roster for 2021-22 is still pending, even after this most recent “signing”. Which reminds me of something Robin Salo told me about this situation not too long ago: “All I know is the best players will be in the lineup and playing. . It is not rocket science.