The Chicago Blackhawks made a trade towards the future yesterday, acquiring a number of players from the Florida Panthers.
Most of the chatter around this trade has revolved around promising young center Henrik Borgström, who could easily wind up being a big part of the team’s forward core. However, the ‘Hawks also acquired another offensive weapon: right winger Brett Connolly.
Connolly, in my opinion, is one of the more underrated players in the league. At only 28-years-old, he likely still has a long career ahead of him. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that he brings a type of play to the Blackhawks that they definitely need.
Connolly is a serviceable third-line grinder, a chippy 6’3 guy who can throw has weight around, having registered 591 hits and 224 PIMs through his NHL career. Besides this, he also has a decent amount of playoff experience, and he won a Stanley Cup in 2018 as a member of the Washington Capitals.
However, Connolly is not the type of bottom-six guy who can’t find the net. As I stated before, he has been largely underrated for most of his career, but his offensive stats are nothing to gawk at. He’s scored 100 goals and 92 assists through his ten years in the league, including a career-high 22 goals in 2019. While he’s obviously never going to be at the top of the NHL leaderboards, he has proven he can contribute to the scoresheet.
With this unique skillset, Connolly could end up playing a big role for the Blackhawks. However, this all depends on how the team intends to use him. The ‘Hawks are transitioning to a younger core of guys, and are trying to give their prospects time to develop, so it is possible that Connolly won’t see the ice all that often.
Additionally, per CapFriendly, Connolly carries a $3.5 million cap hit through the 2023 season. While the ‘Hawks have a ton of cap space this year due to long-term injured reserve, they could very well be in a salary crunch by the time Connolly’s contract expires.
This isn’t to say that he couldn’t end up re-signing, but 2023 is shaping up to be a key year for the ‘Hawks. Both Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews will be UFAs, and Alex DeBrincat will be an RFA. With this being the case, a lot of decisions will have to be made, and a guy like Connolly may not be part of the long-term plan.
However, for the time being, Chicago is better off having Brett Connolly on the team. He is a guy that can contribute in a lot of different ways on the ice, and I look forward to seeing what he will do in a Blackhawks sweater.