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Capitals Trade Rumblings

Before Trade To Toronto, Gustafsson Expressed Desire To Stay With Capitals

Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson made it clear about what he wanted regarding his future as the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline looms.



ARLINGTON, V.A. — Before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson had hope that he wouldn't be one of the pending free agents on the move as the team has established itself as "open for business" ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline.

Gustafsson, who has now been traded three times over the last three years, made it clear that he didn't want that to be the case this time around and wanted to remain with the Capitals.

"I want to stay here," Gustafsson said. "This is where I want to be, and I love this organization, the group here and just the system, how we play and everything like that."

That didn't happen, though, as he is now headed to Toronto in exchange for Rasmus Sandin.

The 30-year-old blueliner, who inked a low-risk one-year, $800,000 deal in the offseason, has been a surprise and a major asset for Washington this season. Gustafsson has seven goals and 31 assists for 38 points in 61 games, helping to fill John Carlson's void by taking on the role of a power-play quarterback and top-pairing offensive defenseman. The Swede led all Capitals blueliners in assists and also has a +/- rating of plus-9.

However, the Swede was one of nine pending free agents left on the roster, with six of those being defensemen. General manager Brian MacLellan has been discussing his pending UFAs with other teams and is shifting his focus toward building for the future, with the team currently sitting outside a playoff spot and having dropped seven of the last eight games.

For Gustafsson, his status and the team's record had crossed his mind with March 3 approaching, especially after watching fellow free agents Dmitry Orlov and Garnet Hathaway be traded to Boston. Marcus Johansson was also traded to the Minnesota Wild minutes before him on Tuesday.

"Even if we were a playoff team, I probably would've thought [of] that, too," Gustafsson said. "The last three years, I've been traded two times, so I know it's always tough this time of year. And even if you're a playoff team or if you're not, but right now, you just try to focus on the game, try to do my best to help this team win."

Still, that was easier said than done. Not only had Gustafsson fit in well with Washington, but as a father of three, D.C. has been the perfect landing spot for him and his family. And after having played with five different teams since 2020, No. 56 wanted to stick around a bit longer. Now, Toronto will be his sixth team in four seasons. Granted, he could still hit the market on July 1 and could potentially return if there is a deal to be had.

"You never know what's gonna happen in the future… as tough as it is, you have to live with it," Gustafsson had noted.

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