Ahead of Monday’s trade deadline, the Blackhawks were involved in a five-player swap with the Panthers on Thursday, sending forward Lucas Wallmark and defenseman Lucas Carlsson to Florida in exchange for forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Brett Connolly, defenseman Riley Stillman and Florida’s seventh-round pick in the 2021 draft.
From the Blackhawks’ perspective, it appears that Borgstrom is the prize of the trade, according to this statement from general manager Stan Bowman:
Stan Bowman: "We are receiving a very exciting, young player with a bright future in Henrik Borgstrom. He is a high-end talent and we think he has the ability to be a big time player for us."— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) April 8, 2021
Borgstrom was a first-round pick (23rd overall) of the Panthers in the 2016 NHL Draft, making his NHL debut during the 2017-18 season. The 23-year-old Finland native played in 58 NHL games across the last three seasons, tallying 9 goals and 10 assists while averaging 12:04 of ice time. It should be noted that Borgstrom spent 50 games with Florida in the ‘18-19 season but only four during the ‘19-20 season, as he spent most of that time with the Springfield Thunderbirds of the AHL. Borgstrom’s entry-level contract expired and he returned to his native Finland for this hockey season with 11 goals and 8 assists in 27 games for HIFK in the Finnish Elite League. Borgstrom played collegiately with Ian Mitchell at Denver and is currently a restricted free agent.
According to the team statement linked above, the Blackhawks have already assigned Connolly and Stillman to the taxi squad, with neither player appearing to be potential long-term fixtures in Chicago. Stillman could have a chance to stick, as he’s only 23 and in the final season of his entry-level contract, But he has no points this season while playing in just eight games. Connolly, who’ll turn 29 on May 2, played in 21 games with two goals and assists apiece. He is signed through the 2022-23 season at an annual cap hit of $3.5 million.
Apparently, cap space and young talent was the primarily motivation of this deal, per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun:
Full trade:— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) April 8, 2021
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
Wallmark was a free-agent signing in the offseason by Chicago but never found his footing in the organization, playing in just 16 games this season. He now returns to Florida, the same place he was traded to before the 2020 trade deadline. While Carlsson had shown some flashes in his brief NHL stints, the Blackhawks do have a glutton of blue-line prospects and only a finite of roster spots available to them. Some of those younger players weren’t going to find their NHL futures in Chicago, and Carlsson is the first to have that confirmed.