From Adrian Dater who covers the Colorado Avalanche for The Denver Post-
Jonas Gustavsson, a Swedish goalie considered one of the best in the world not currently playing in the NHL, has narrowed the list of NHL teams he’ll consider playing for next season. The Avalanche is one of them, and former Avs star Peter Forsberg said Denver is just the place for him.
“I think Colorado would be a great fit. It’s a great city to play hockey in, even if they had a rough season,” Forsberg told Swedish reporters. “I think it would be less pressure for him there than Toronto or Philadelphia or New York.”
The Avs confirmed they have interest in Gustavsson, 24, and that the feeling is mutual. A 6-foot-3, 192-pound goalie, Gustavsson led Farjestad to the championship of the Swedish Elite League this year. He posted a 1.96 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in the regular season, and said he will jump to the NHL in 2009-10.
While he is an unrestricted free agent, Gustavsson would be subject to a “rookie max” salary for one year, at a maximum of $900,000. That makes it likely his first NHL contract will be for one season, because after he turns 25 he won’t be subject to entry-level salary bylaws. Unlike traditional unrestricted free agents, Gustavsson can be signed at any time rather than needing to wait for the July 1 start of free agency. Other teams on Gustavsson’s short list include Toronto, Dallas and San Jose.
Gustavsson is expected to travel to Denver to meet with Avalanche management soon, but plans have not been finalized. Gustavsson may have interest in the Avalanche partly because Patrick Roy — one of his idols — is considering joining the team as a coach or in management. Multiple NHL sources have said Roy can have, at minimum, the Avalanche’s head coaching job if he wants it, but he hasn’t made up his mind.
Wherever he plays, television hockey analyst Pierre McGuire said Gustavsson could be a difference-maker.
“He’s a talented player. He’s got huge upside,” said McGuire, who was a finalist for the Minnesota Wild’s general manager job that was filled Friday by Pittsburgh assistant GM Chuck Fletcher.
“It will take him some time to get used to the smaller rinks in the NHL from those in Europe. But he has the talent to excel here.”
Gustavsson’s best attributes are said to be his lateral quickness and hockey smarts, and his size helps him fill more of the net.
The rookie maximum bylaw is a boon to the Avs in this case, as they have nearly $44 million committed to 14 players for next season (one of the 14 being rookie center T.J. Galiardi), and the NHL’s salary cap is not expected to change much from its current $56.7 million.
Gustavsson’s mother is seriously ill, which could complicate his schedule visiting NHL teams.
If you haven’t seen Gustavsson play, take a look. He is huge, has great lateral movement and is quite a battler.
Whether he is ready for the NHL? Only time will tell but it has to be better than what Colorado had between the pipes last season.