Aaron Ekblad is irreplaceable. Dropping him to a damaged leg was devastating to the Florida Panthers. But it surely’s clear they’re not able to roll over. Not after they’ve been so dominant and style themselves reliable Stanley Cup contenders with or with out their high defenseman. It seems GM Invoice Zito needs to make a number of high-impact strikes to retool his roster in time for the post-season. Technically, he made one already Thursday, however it appears on paper like a precursor to extra. The Panthers are clearing the deck.
It was introduced Thursday they despatched proper winger Brett Connolly, defenseman Riley Stillman, the RFA rights to middle Henrik Borgstrom and a 2021 seventh-round decide to the Chicago Blackhawks for middle Lucas Wallmark and defenseman Lucas Carlsson.
The Panthers are dumping wage. Transferring Connolly clears $3.5 million in cap house. Depth middle Wallmark performed for the Panthers and coach Joel Quenneville after coming over in a deadline deal final season, too, and Carlson brings some organizational depth, however, for Florida, this commerce was not about them. The Panthers are actually projected to have as much as $18 million in trade-deadline space, per CapFriendly. That leaves room to deal with a number of wants. They may pursue a top-end left winger such as the Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall to play on a scoring line, and they might search a right-shot Ekblad substitute for the highest 4 on protection, maybe the Anaheim Geese’ Josh Manson or the Columbus Blue Jackets’ David Savard. The Panthers are set as much as be a giant stack on the poker desk between now and the April-12 commerce deadline. They wouldn’t have sacrificed Borgstrom in any other case. In The Hockey Information’ 2021 version of Future Watch, he ranked as their No. 4 prospect.
As for the Blackhawks, the younger property acquired within the commerce are the boon – one particularly. Two-way middle Borgstrom, 23, has been thought of one of many higher prospects within the sport since being drafted 23rd general in 2016, however the prospect label has virtually peeled off. He’s approaching the now-or-never age, having bounced forwards and backwards between the Panthers and the AHL in latest seasons. However he has a profitable pedigree as a star on an NCAA champion squad on the College of Denver, and he’s discovered his scoring contact taking part in again house in Finland for HIFK Helsinki. He’s an fascinating reclamation challenge for a franchise recognized for seeing potential in uncared for commodities. A fantastic latest instance is Dominik Kubalik, whom Chicago acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a fifth-round decide in 2019.
Although Chicago took on Connolly as a favor, would possibly he be a sneaky-useful addition? This season was a catastrophe for him, along with his influence cratering to profession lows in most offensive metrics. He ended up a frequent wholesome scratch and acquired waived and stashed on the taxi squad for nearly a month. However he contributed between 15 and 22 targets in every of his earlier 4 seasons, working as a helpful middle-six ahead. And whereas it appears like he’s been round a very long time, he’s solely 28. So maybe the Blackhawks, depleted by accidents and two factors out of a playoff spot, can discover a function for him.