The Blackhawks have been busy over the seven days. After re-acquiring Vinnie Hinostroza from the Florida Panthers last week, the two teams made yet another trade. This time, Florida is shedding salary by sending forward Brett Connolly to Chicago, along with forward Henrik Borgstrom and defenseman Riley Stillman. The Blackhawks also receive a 7th round pick, while sending defenseman Lucas Carlsson and forward Lucas Wallmark to the Panthers.
This trade is fairly beneficial for the Blackhawks, allowing them to net two younger prospects in the salary dump. Thanks to Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR), the Blackhawks have over $20 million in cap space for this season. Florida was in need of cap flexibility and the Blackhawks stepped up to the plate.
The Blackhawks' Acquisitions
Brett Connolly is a 28-year-old winger, and is in his second year of a four-year, $14 million deal he signed before the 2019-20 season with the Panthers. Last season, Connolly netted 19 goals and added 14 assists for the Panthers in 69 games, but he started off slow this year, posting two goals and two assists in 21 games. A change of scenery for Connolly, and a well-needed cap dump for the Panthers, presents an ideal situation for both sides.
Riley Stillman was drafted by the Florida Panthers in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Draft. The 23-year-old defenseman has played parts of three seasons with the Panthers, splitting time between the NHL and AHL. He could still use some seasoning in the minors, but he provides very solid depth for the Blackhawks. The left-handed defenseman has five career points, all assists, in the NHL. Stillman isn't a huge offensive threat, but presents solid depth as a stay-at-home player.
Henrik Borgstrom may be the most appealing piece in the deal, and he fits Stan Bowman's love for former 1st round picks. Borgstrom was the Panthers' 2016 1st round pick, 23rd overall. He is a 6-foot-3, 200 lb. center with a lot of upside. The young Finnish prospect tore up the NCAA ranks at the University of Denver, but struggled to find a permanent spot with the Panthers.
Amidst his struggles, Borgstrom chose to play this season over in Europe, attempting to find his game again. There have been other Florida prospects who struggled to develop with Florida, so Borgstrom is not an outlier by any means. Perhaps a change of scenery is the best thing for the former 1st round pick.
Borgstrom posted 18 points in 50 games back in 2018-19 with the Panthers, but has only played eight games in the two seasons book-ending his 50-game season.
The Panthers' Acquisitions
Lucas Carlsson has played 18 games over the last two seasons with the Blackhawks. This season, Carlsson played 12 games with the Blackhawks, recording a single assist in that time. Carlsson was a part of a deep defensive prospect group, so a change of scenery and a chance to play more regularly should benefit the young Swede.
Lucas Wallmark was signed by the Blackhawks prior to the 2021 season. After beginning the season with two assists in three games in Chicago, Wallmark was placed on the COVID-19 list. Once he returned, he struggled to find regular playing time. He was placed on waivers and cleared subsequent to the Hinostroza trade.
Wallmark played seven games for Florida last season, recording two points. He was a part of the NHL Trade Deadline deal that saw Vincent Trocheck end up in Carolina. Before the trade, Wallmark had 11 goals and 12 assists in 60 games with the Hurricanes.
Overall, the trade benefits both sides. Florida clears cap space to increase their flexibility ahead of the Monday, April 12 trade deadline, and the Blackhawks add more prospects in an attempt to re-tool their roster in quick fashion.
What's On Tap Next?
The Blackhawks take on the Dallas Stars tonight at the United Center in Chicago. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 PM CDT. The Blackhawks then travel to Columbus, Ohio for a two-game set with the Blue Jackets on Saturday and Monday, respectively.