UPDATE: Erik Gustafsson confirmed the signing in Russia in a conversation with Flyers GM Ron Hextall.
Here's a statement from Hextall:
"I spoke with Erik today and he informed me that he does in fact, have a deal in place to play overseas. Although we are disappointed in his decision, we wish him all the best."
Original story below:
If a report out of Russia is true, then defenseman Erik Gustafsson proved that he’s also a pretty good pitcher.
Because he will have thrown the Flyers a curveball.
The report, coming from Sports.ru hockey reporter Igor Eronko stated that Gustafsson signed a deal to join Avangard Omsk of the KHL next season.
The report comes as a bit of a surprise to the Flyers, who, according to general manager Ron Hextall, are aware of the report but had not heard one way or another from Gustafsson or his agent as of Friday.
Gustafsson, 25, played just 31 games in the 2013-14 season and two more in the playoffs in place of the injured Nicklas Grossmann. He often toiled along at practice as the No. 7 guy on the depth chart. However, considering his age, the Flyers still had interest in his development and planned on keeping him on the roster for next season.
However, now that seems a bit up in the air until Hextall con contact Gustafsson or his representative.
If there is any speculation that the Flyers may have told Gustafsson during his exit interview on break-up day that he wasn’t going to be in their future plans, that would be wrong.
I have been told that the Flyers were planning on extending Gustafsson a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent – and will still do so – meaning they will retain his NHL rights if and when he were to return from the KHL – assuming the report is accurate.
It’s a safe and smart move by the Flyers who can retain Gustafsson as an asset without any penalty as he would not count against the Flyers roster limit of 50 contracts unless the deal is signed, in which case he’d be back in the NHL.
Otherwise, Gustafsson would remain on the Flyers Reserve List.
Gustafsson made $1 million in 2013-14 and the Flyers only have to extend him an equivalent offer for 2014-15 by June 30 to retain his rights.
Stay tuned for more on this as it develops.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers