Washington Capitals place Anton Gustafsson on waivers

The Capitals placed former first-round draft pick Anton Gustafsson on unconditional waivers Wednesday, a team spokesman confirmed.

According to the collective bargaining agreement, any NHL team can claim the contract for $125. If Gustafsson, 21, clears at noon Thursday, it would allow Washington to terminate his contract.

According to J.P. Barry, who along with Peter Werner represents Gustafsson, the Capitals were approached about terminating the contract.

“Anton’s development stalled when he was in North America,” Barry said in a phone interview. “He struggled adapting to North America and staying healthy....The plan right now is for him to continue playing in Switzerland.”

Gustafsson, the son of Capitals great Bengt Gustafsson, was the 21st overall pick in the 2008 draft, but he was limited by recurring injury problems since being selected.

When he failed to earn a spot with Hershey in the fall of 2010 and was reassigned to South Carolina, the young forward elected to take a break from hockey. When Gustafsson informed Washington of his decision to leave North America, the team suspended his contract.

He later appeared in 11 games for Langnau in the Swiss-A league after returning to Europe, recording one point and finishing with a minus-4 rating.

“He really got his development back on track and enjoyed playing in Switzerland,” said Barry, who added that he doesn’t expect Gustafsson to be claimed by another NHL team. “I think the team has realized that this is the best route...He can continue to develop without the pressure of the NHL and contracts and just stay in Europe to continue his progress.”

As for whether Gustafsson may ever return to play hockey in North America, Barry said it’s “too hard to predict.”

Renaud Lavoie of RDS first reported that Gustafsson had been placed on waivers.

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