Trade deadline week has finally produced some results and the first two deals give us an idea of where this is all perhaps headed.
Florida and Chicago put a package together Thursday that is very reflective of the salary cap environment.
The Blackhawks have told teams for several weeks that they would have cap space for sale and they delivered on that in a deal acquiring Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom plus a seventh-round pick in exchange for Lucas Carlsson and Lucas Wallmark.
Connolly has two more years on his contract at a $3.5 million AAV. The Panthers have been trying to move Connolly most of the year. So the prize to take on Connolly, who can still be a serviceable player, was getting the young blueliner Stillman plus taking a flier on 2016 first-round pick Borgstrom who never did put it together for Florida and is now playing in his native Finland but is still 23. Same age as Stillman.
“Chicago getting Stillman was a good move,” observed one rival team executive to me after the deal was announced.
My sense is that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman remains open to leveraging more of his free cap space ahead of Monday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline and he’s let teams know that.
Keep an eye on the Toronto Maple Leafs in that regard. I believe the Leafs have held talks with Chicago and San Jose over the past month about using them as a third-party broker in a potential trade scenario if that came to pass.
Detroit is definitely another team that would leverage its cap space to gain assets.
The Panthers, meanwhile, are likely not done. GM Bill Zito was able to move Connolly’s contract, which I think a lot of people didn’t think could be achieved in this environment. In the 15 years of the cap era, I’ve never before seen how protective teams are of cap space as they are right now. It’s so hard to move money in this flat cap environment.