After reacquiring Vinnie Hinostroza last week, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman executed yet another trade with the Florida Panthers on Thursday, trading defenseman Lucas Carlsson and forward Lucas Wallmark in exchange for veteran forward Brett Connolly, center prospect Henrik Borgstrom, defensive prospect Riley Stillman, and a 7th round pick.
The move comes with just three days until the NHL trade deadline on April 12th.
With regards to shedding certain players — namely, Wallmark for Chicago and Connolly for Florida — the trade makes sense for both teams. Wallmark was signed to a one-year deal as a free agent in the offseason, but never panned out for Chicago this year, playing in only 16 games before being put on waivers. With a 3.5 million cap hit until 2023 and only four points (2G, 2A) in 21 games this year, the 28-year-old Connolly was a salary-dump for Florida. Both players were regular scratches for their respective clubs this season.
Losing Carlsson will ruffle some feathers in Chicago, in the same way when Henri Jokiharju was traded in 2019. Both had tremendous promise and were slated to be “the future” of the backend for the Blackhawks, but Carlsson seemed to fall down the defensive depth chart, particularly behind defensemen like Adam Boqvist, Ian Mitchell, Alex Beaudin, and most recently, Wyatt Kalynuk. Although Carlsson was jettisoned, the Blackhawks defensive pipeline will be just as stocked with the addition of prospect Riley Stillman.
The most intriguing player for the Blackhawks in this trade may be Henrik Borgstrom, who was drafted 23rd overall in the 2016 NHL Draft. At 6’3″ and 199 pounds, Borgstrom is a big-bodied center who might look extremely good behind Kirby Dach in the Blackhawks lineup. Like Dach, Borgstrom’s hands, shot, and skating ability are above-average, especially for a player of his size and age. He is seen as a highly-skilled player who may take longer to mature than Dach, but who can be just as dangerous if he can develop at the NHL level.
Although Bowman agreed to eat Connolly’s salary until 2023, he at least gained “something for nothing” in trading the soon-to-be free agent Wallmark. Bowman also netted two prospects (Borgstrom, Stillman) for the price of one (Carlsson), in addition to a 7th round pick. Moreover, Connolly may offer immediate help to a team that is still very much in the playoff hunt this year. Although Connolly struggled mightily this year, he is a veteran with decent size and can be a 20-goal scorer, scoring 33 points (19G, 14A) last year.