Erik Gustafsson leaves Flyers to play in KHL

Erik Gustafsson leaves Flyers to play in KHL

A look back at the Paul Holmgren era

May 16, 2014, 12:00 pm
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Erik Gustafsson had two goals (10 points) in 31 games for the Flyers this season. (USA Today Images)

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

Things just got a little worse for the Flyers on their blue line.

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson has signed a contract to play for Avangard Omsk of the KHL next season.

The 25-year-old Swede was a restricted free agent who the Flyers probably would have re-signed this summer so long as he accepted a small salary.

"I spoke with Erik today and he informed me that he does in fact, have a deal in place to play overseas," general manager Ron Hextall said in a statement released by the team. "Although we are disappointed in his decision, we wish him all the best."

Sport.Ru first reported the signing.

His loss hurts because he was the quickest defensemen and best young skater the Flyers had -- even though he projected as a seventh man on the roster.

His smallish size – barely 5-foot-9 -- will always be a concern among NHL clubs.

Since 2000, the Flyers are the only NHL club without a homegrown defenseman playing regular minutes for them every night -- but Gustafsson came close. He actually played some minutes and some games for the Flyers in the past couple years after signing as a free agent out of college (Northern Michigan) in 2010.

As wrote last week, Flyers coach Craig Berube and his staff gave Gustafsson every opportunity this season to force himself into the lineup, but his confidence with the puck seemed to wane this year, which is why he spent more time in the press box than on the ice.

He had a poor regular season with the Flyers, appearing in just 31 games with two goals, eight assists for 10 points, though he was plus-7 and averaged 17:30 a game.

Now he's the answer to a trivia question for the 2014 playoffs:

Who scored as many goals – one -- as Sidney Crosby in 11 fewer games?

Answer: Erik Gustafsson.

Bottom line? Gustafsson’s performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2012 playoffs should have jump-started his continued development as a Flyer, but he never got back to that level and never played a significant number of games.

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