Panthers free up cap space by trading Brett Connolly to Chicago

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The impressive Florida Panthers have positioned themselves for another move ahead of the NHL’s trade deadline following a five-player, six-asset trade completed Thursday with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Forward Brett Connolly will move to Chicago as part of the announced deal, which will also see Riley Stillman and prospect Henrik Borgstrom land with the Blackhawks, in addition to a seventh-round draft selection. The first-place Panthers will take back Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson in return, but more valuably create considerable cap and financial wiggle room with Connolly’s $3.5 million salary removed from the payroll this season, in addition to two more


Connolly has had a terrible season for the upstart Panthers with only two goals and four points in 21 games, but it seems Chicago is willing to house the remaining two seasons on his contract to claim a reclamation project in Borgstrom. A first-round draft selection from five years ago, Borgstrom has had a difficult time finding traction in North America since his days at the University of Denver, and has since returned to his native Finland to play out the season with HIFK Helsinki of the country’s top division.

Chicago has made a habit, at least to varying degrees of success, of working to reinvent floundering high-end talent, taking on Dylan Strome and Alex Nylander in recent trades.

Wallmark and Carlsson have been bit parts for the Blackhawks this season and will likely serve only as depth for a Panthers team that has every reason to add in the coming days. Florida is one of four teams at the current moment with a plus-.700 winning percentage, success supported by strong underlying data.

Chicago, meanwhile, started unexpectedly strong this season, but have seen its performance dwindle since. Still, the Blackhawks are only two points out of a postseason spot as of Thursday, which interestingly enough could present a first-round matchup with Florida.

It’s unclear who Florida might target, but an impact forward or help on the back end with Aaron Ekblad out are options both worth pursuing.

This is the second time in less than a week the Blackhawks and Panthers have swung a deal, though it would be considered the more consequential of the two. Vinnie Hinostroza was dealt back to the Blackhawks in exchange for forward Brad Morrison last Friday.

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