31-Year-Old Defenseman – St. Louis Blues
Carl Gunnarsson Contract Information:
Signed a three-year, $8.7 million contract extension with the Blues in March 2016.
Gunnarsson didn't appear on the scoresheet in Saturday's 2-1 overtime loss to Minnesota.
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Carl Gunnarsson: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
The Maple Leafsí lack of responsible defenders tasked Gunnarsson with playing far too many minutes against top-flight competition last season, a role he wasnít equipped to fulfill. Those defensive issues were further exacerbated by the teamís poor puck retention, which helped Gunnarsson pile up hits and blocks on his own end of the ice, but limited his offensive impact. Acquired by the Blues in a draft day trade, Gunnarsson will likely be ticketed for duty on the teamís bottom pairing, with the lower quality of competition heíll face likely more befitting of his true talent level. Even though Gunnarsson will no longer be overmatched as frequently, the expected drop-off in ice time will result in diminished fantasy production across the board.
How good is Gunnarsson? Well, when the Kings couldn't pry Jake Gardiner out of the Leafs in the Jonathan Bernier deal, they set their sights on Gunnar. The Leafs refused to budge on him and for good reason -- he's a low-maintenance, top-four defender who generally plays mistake-free minutes, shuts down the opposition's best skaters, blocks shots and lays hits. He's not really an offensive type, but he was on a career pace last season (17 points in 37 games). He might some day deliver 30 points, but not this year. Still, 25 points, 125 hits and 180 blocked shots make him valuable in specialty formats.
Gunnarsson is Mr. Steady on the Leafs' blue line. He's a safe, mistake-free defender who is a fluid skater with good mobility in all directions. He has a solid outlet pass and has shown an ability to join the rush, as well. But, on the Leafs, Gunnarsson won't see power-play time, limiting his fantasy value. He'll have a good plus-minus, though, to go along with 20-25 points. Does that fit your format?
Gunnarsson is a guy you don't really notice for long stretches ... but that's a good thing. He plays a solid, somewhat conservative game so he doesn't get caught out of position defensively. He skates well, has a good outlet pass and the good judgement to know when he should and should not join the rush. He'd be a solid 3/4 defender on another team, but the Leafs are deep on the back end. He should scoot ahead of the lead-footed Mike Komisarek to secure a spot on the bottom pairing and will likely see time on the second power-play unit. He may be a 40-point defender some day but that day won't come this season. Expect a decent increase on last season but anything above 30 points will be pure gravy.
Gunnarsson is the epitome of a sleeper. By the end of last March, he had quietly risen in ice time and responsibility and in fact, was seeing more ice than offensive teammate Tomas Kaberle. Gunnar can hold his own in all situations and plays an intelligent game, and he has the respect of coach Ron Wilson. Expect a significant output, perhaps in the 30-35 point range, for this emerging defender. Keeper leaguers should get on board early.
Gunnar is a 6-foot-2, 190-pound blueliner who performed admirably for his country (Sweden) at the recent World Championships. His future is a long way off and it may be nothing more than as a depth defender; don't bother with him right now.