Panthers Have Cap Space for Deadline Moves With Connolly Trade

It didn’t take long for the Florida Panthers to make a move following the huge Kyle Palmieri trade on Wednesday night. Just four days before the trade deadline, the team made the decision to send Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Henrik Borgstrom and a seventh-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks for Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson.

Brett Connolly

Lets start with moving out Connolly.

Connolly, 28, is being paid $3.5 million annually until the end of the 2022-23 season. He has just two goals and four points through 21 games this season, and often found himself being healthy scratched. He has a 48.31 expected goal percentage (xG%), meaning he has allowed more expected goals than he has stopped. He has a 2.04 expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60), which shows how bad he has been in his own end this season for the Panthers.

I gave Connolly a D+ grade in my season expectation report card article, which ranked him as the third-worst Panther this season, ahead of just Owen Tippett and Anton Stralman.

The way Connolly went out of Florida is quite disappointing, as he was actually a very valuable asset to the team in the 2019-20 season. He possessed the second-best expected goals above replacement (xGAR) on the entire team, with an 11.10, trailing just MacKenzie Weegar. He also had 19 goals and 33 points through 69 games, with a very lethal, underrated shot.

Brett Connolly, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Connolly will try to regain his form in Chicago, he is a former sixth-overall pick, so we know the skill is there, and maybe with the best opportunity of his career, with a chance to get more ice time than he ever has.

Riley Stillman

Stillman, like Connolly, simply just fell out of favour with the Panthers due to the new additions the team made in the past offseason.

Stillman played just eight games in Florida this season, going without a point. He ranked 14th out of 25 on the team in goals above replacement (GAR) with a 1.50, showing he was actually a solid piece to the lineup on the rare occasion when he was in the lineup. He was mainly a sturdy defensive player, with his 0.80 even-strength defensive goals above replacement (EVD_GAR) placing him as the eighth-most valuable Panther defensively at 5-on-5 this season.

Riley Stillman, Florida Panthers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I believe the Panthers just as well could have swapped out Stillman and replaced him with Markus Nutivaara in this trade, but the fact of the matter is that he just would not have gotten the ice-time on this deep defensive team. He definitely should get a look on the Blackhawks’ blueline.

Henrik Borgstrom

This is one that stings for the Panthers.

Borgstrom, 23, was the 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL entry draft. He had promising results in the U20 SM-liiga with HIFK U20 during his draft year, with 29 goals and 55 points through 40 games. He also looked good in his two years with the University of Denver in the NCAA, with 45 goals and 95 points through 77 games. All looked great for the Finnish forward’s development until the 2018-19 season, where he got the call-up to the NHL and had 8 goals in 50 games.

Henrik Borgstrom, Florida Panthers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Borgstrom was never the same after this, and actually left North America to play in the Liiga for the 2020-21 season, where he currently has 11 goals and 19 points through 27 games with HIFK.

Stan Bowman says that Borgstrom is one of the best players he has seen in college hockey in the last 10 years, and says he thought he was destined for greatness at the NHL level.

Borgstrom will likely get another crack at the NHL next season in Chicago, and I still think he has it in him to be a serviceable player.

Lucas Wallmark

Hey, remember this guy? This is the second straight trade deadline that Wallmark has been moved to the Panthers.

Wallmark has struggled since leaving Florida in free agency. He has just three points, all of which are assists, in 16 games this season. He also has a minus-0.30 GAR, mainly due to his below-average offensive work.

Lucas Wallmark, Florida Panthers (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

In reality, Wallmark is just another contract that had to come the Panthers’ way to make this deal work, but I would not count him getting some games in before the end of the season due to the team’s lack of depth down the middle.

Lucas Carlsson

I really wouldn’t expect much from Carlsson, Panthers fans.

Lucas Carlsson, Rockford IceHogs (Todd Reicher)

Like Wallmark, Carlsson is likely just another contract coming the other way to even things out. He was drafted 110th overall in 2016 and has 18 games played in the NHL. He currently has three points in seven games with the Rockford Icehogs of the AHL.

What’s Next for the Panthers?

So basically what I am getting at with this is that you should not focus on what the Panthers are bringing in for this trade, rather than what they got rid of.

The Panthers cleared cap space, and now have a little over $16.4M to spend at the trade deadline. The options are endless, from Taylor Hall to David Savard to Vince Dunn, and the list goes on – expect the Panthers to be players at Monday’s deadline.

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