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Trade: Panthers free up cap space, send Connolly, Stillman to Blackhawks

Darren Dreger breaks down the Islanders trade for Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac and what the deal looks like for both sides, while also discussing what it means for Taylor Hall and where he could end up at the deadline.

The Blackhawks and Panthers have hooked up for their second trade together in the past week.

Last Friday, Vinnie Hinostroza was dealt back to Chicago for Brad Morrison. On Thursday it was the Panthers sending Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, the restricted free agent rights to Henrik Borgstrom, and a 2021 seventh-round pick to the Blackhawks for Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson.

The 28-year-old Connolly has two more seasons on a contract that carries a $3.5M cap hit and salary through 2022-23, per CapFriendly. It was clear his time was coming to an end in Florida going by his usage this season. He played in 21 of Florida’s 40 games and his ice time has fluctuated all season under Joel Quenneville. Connolly was also waived and placed on the team’s taxi squad.

Stillman, Wallmark, and Carlsson are all RFAs this off-season. Borgstrom is currently an RFA who is playing in Finland this season.

[2020-21 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker]

While the Blackhawks remain in the hunt for the Central Division’s final playoff spot, GM Stan Bowman’s plan was to not mortgage the future for rentals.

“We will not be in the market to trade away draft picks or young players to acquire a veteran UFA,” he told Ben Pope of the Chicago Sun-Times this week.

The trade sweetener here for the Blackhawks in taking on Connolly’s cap hit is the 23-year-old Borgstrom. He never really got going in Florida with nine goals in 58 NHL games, but he was a scorer in college, potting 45 goals in 77 games.

For the Panthers, this puts them at $18M in trade deadline cap space, according to CapFriendly. Florida is currently second in the Central on points percentage, and comfortably in a playoff spot 12 points ahead of the fourth-place Predators. As you hear many GMs say this time of year, the Panthers have played well enough that GM Bill Zito will feel they “deserve” to be rewarded with additions.

Might that reward come in the form of a Taylor Hall? We’ll see.


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.