Bowman believes all 3 players acquired from Florida can help Hawks

  • Florida's Brett Connolly is one of three players the Blackhawks acquired Thursday in a trade with the Panthers.

    Florida's Brett Connolly is one of three players the Blackhawks acquired Thursday in a trade with the Panthers. Associated Press

  • Defenseman Riley Stillman is on his way to the Blackhawks following a trade with the Florida Panthers.

    Defenseman Riley Stillman is on his way to the Blackhawks following a trade with the Florida Panthers. Associated Press

  • Henrik Borgstrom, playing in the Finnish Elite League, is coming to the Blackhawks as part of a 5-player trade with Florida.

    Henrik Borgstrom, playing in the Finnish Elite League, is coming to the Blackhawks as part of a 5-player trade with Florida. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/8/2021 11:33 PM

Low risk, potential big reward.

That pretty much sums up the trade executed by the Blackhawks on Thursday in which they acquired a former 20-goal scorer in Brett Connolly, forward Henrik Borgstrom, defenseman Riley Stillman and a seventh-round pick from Florida for Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson.

 

The move gives the Hawks two promising players in Stillman and Borgstrom, while allowing the Panthers to shed Connolly, whose contract carries a $3.5 million cap hit for two more seasons.

Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Connolly and Stillman will join the team on their upcoming five-game road trip, which begins in Columbus on Saturday.

Borgstrom, drafted 23rd overall by Florida in 2016, is playing for HIFK Helsinki in the Finnish Elite League. General manager and president of hockey operations Stan Bowman wants to sign the 23-year-old after Helsinki's season is over and expects him to be in camp next fall.

Here's a closer look at the acquisitions:

Brett Connolly

The 6-foot-3, 192-pound forward is a 10-year veteran who has played for Tampa Bay, Boston, Washington and Florida. He averaged 18 goals and 16 assists from 2016-20, but had just 2 goals and 2 assists in 21 games for the Panthers this season. He scored six times during Washington's run to the Stanley Cup in 2018.

Bowman likes that Connolly is a proven goal-scorer and that he'll bring some much-needed size to the roster. Bowman downplayed Connolly's low production this season, saying "this happens around the league" at times.

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Connolly was assigned to the taxi squad when he wasn't claimed on waivers in late February. He did play in five of Florida's last nine games, scoring once and averaging 15:17 of ice time.

"He was a good player last year," Bowman said, noting that Connolly scored 19 times in 69 games. "We're not trying to recapture something that was there five years ago. Sometimes ... (a guy's) role changes with new players coming in. ...

"The thing he has is tough to do in this league, which is score goals. He's got a great release on his shot and he's a big body. We don't have a lot of that, so it's a nice situation to add someone like him."

Henrik Borgstrom

Borgstrom is the potential "high reward" part of this trade. A former University of Denver teammate of Hawks defenseman Ian Mitchell, Borgstrom appeared to be on the fast track to NHL stardom after piling up 45 goals in 77 collegiate games, then scoring eight times in 50 games as a rookie with the Panthers in 2018-19.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

But coach Joel Quenneville benched Borgstrom after just four games last season. The 23-year-old ended up scoring 11 goals in 49 games in the AHL, then signed overseas for this season.

"Henrik was a dominant college player -- one of the best college players I've seen in the last 10 years," Bowman said. "Really high-end skill. ... When you look at his best game it's pretty impressive.

"We've been watching him play in Finland. His skill set's very noticeable. Big, tall kid. Good reach. Athletic body, skater, hands. He can do a lot of different things with the puck. There's tremendous upside.

"Obviously he's got to turn that potential into reality, but he's the kind of player that you get excited to work with."

Riley Stillman

A left-shot defenseman from Ontario, Stillman played in 34 games for the Panthers last season, doling out 59 hits while blocking 57 shots while averaging 19:07 of ice time. He played in eight NHL games and five AHL games this season.

The 23-year-old is 6-1, 196 pounds and has a style akin to Nikita Zadorov and Connor Murphy.

"Riley was a big part of this trade too," Bowman said. "The biggest thing with him is his competitiveness, his aggressive style. When he's on the ice, you know he's on the ice. He plays hard. He takes pride in the defensive part of the game.

"You want to have players that can make plays and join the rush and create offense, but you have to have some defensemen that are stable defenders and penalty killers and bring a little bit of that competitive spirit. ... It's a nice complement to our young defensemen we have here."

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