The Florida Panthers are buyers — as has been the case lately — when it comes to the NHL Trade Deadline which is fast approaching.
On Thursday morning, the Panthers cleared up even more cap space by dealing three players and a draft pick to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic confirmed that the Panthers traded Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom along with a seventh-round pick to the Blackhawks.
Florida, which is currently atop the Central Division standings, is getting back forward Lucas Wallmark (remember him?) and defenseman Lucas Carlsson.
Wallmark recently passed through waivers and would be eligible to join the Panthers’ taxi squad (most likely) or even be sent to AHL Syracuse.
Wallmark was originally acquired by the Panthers in the Vincent Trocheck trade but due to his arbitration rights, Florida chose not to tender him a qualifying offer this offseason making him a free agent.
Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom plus a 7th Rd pick in exchange for Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark.
Connolly has 2 more yrs at $3.5M AAV. Florida freeing up cap space as part of this. Hawks using their cap space to net 2 young players
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 8, 2021
Carlsson, a defenseman, has split time this season with Chicago and AHL Rockford and could be headed to Syracuse.
By sending Connolly to Chicago, the Panthers free up a chunk of salary cap space.
In 2019, Connolly signed a four-year deal with the Panthers worth $3.5 million per season.
The Panthers are thought to be in the running for Buffalo LW Taylor Hall (among others) and needed to free up some cap space.
With the trade deadline coming Monday at 3, Florida has a lot of room to bring in some new players.
Per CapFriendly.com, the Panthers are projected to be around $18 million under the cap at the time of the deadline.
The Panthers are looking for a center and a defenseman, but Hall — who won the Hart Trophy as league MVP with New Jersey a few years back — would give Florida some additional scoring punch.
Connolly fell out of favor with the Panthers and has rarely played the past few months after Florida placed him on waivers and put him on the taxi squad.
Chicago is getting Borgstrom, the 23rd overall pick by Florida in 2016, as well as Stillman for taking on Connolly’s salary.
”It’s obviously part of the business,” Noel Acciari said after Florida’s morning skate Thursday.
“Whatever ends up happening, we are going to lose some guys, some friends we have gotten close with. Everyone in the room knows it is a business. It could happen to anyone.
”It is exciting that we’re making that push. Whomever leaves we will miss and whomever we bring in we will welcome and hope they help the team. (Connolly) is a good player, we wish him nothing but the best. We came in together here, we’re close. We live close by and it’s tough to see him go.
”But I am happy for him and we’ll see him down the line. It’s bittersweet.”
Borgstrom started last season with the Panthers as their No. 3 center but after four games, he was benched by Joel Quenneville and replaced by free agent Brian Boyle and, coincidentally, Wallmark later in the season.
He has spent this season playing for his hometown HIFK Helsinki team scoring 11 goals in 27 games. There had been talks that he was dissatisfied with the Panthers although GM Bill Zito tried to assuage those concerns.
Doesn’t matter now, though.
Last week, Florida traded forward Vinnie Hinostroza to the Blackhawks as well.
“We are receiving a very exciting, young player with a bright future in Henrik Borgstrom,” Chicago GM Stan Bowman said.
“He is a high-end talent and we think he has the ability to be a big time player for us.
“We also add to our forward depth with an experienced veteran in Brett Connolly and a physical defenseman in Riley Stillman.
“Connolly is a proven goal scorer and adds some versatility to our front line while Stillman is a young, physical defenseman whose aggressive style brings a different element to our defense.”