I don’t know if he’s got only four phones unlocked in GM Mode or what, but Chicago Blackhawks President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Stan Bowman sure loves making deals with four teams: Carolina, Arizona, Columbus, and Florida.
On Thursday morning, just a few days after trading Brad Morrison to the Panthers for Vinnie Hinostroza, Bowman and the Blackhawks made another move with Florida, swapping five players and a 2021 draft pick.
In the deal, the Blackhawks sent Lucas Wallmark and Lucas Carlsson to the Panthers and received Brett Connolly, Riley Stillman, Henrik Borgström, and Florida’s 2021 seventh-round draft pick. The upside to the deal for Florida was to get rid of Connolly’s contract and create cap space ahead of the April 12th trade deadline. The upside for the Blackhawks is that they acquired a handful of maybes and lost essentially nothing as Wallmark and Carlsson had no futures with the organization.
The focal point in the deal for Chicago is former 2016 first-round pick by the Panthers, Henrik Borgström. Connolly and Stillman may both find their way into the Blackhawks’ lineup before the season is over, although it’s likely just Connolly will.
Colliton on Blackhawks trade acquisitions Connolly, Borgstrom + Stillman: "They’re (Connolly, Stillman) going to meet us in Columbus. All 3 are guys that have something to prove. … I don’t have an answer when they’ll play but we think they’ll contribute for us."
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) April 9, 2021
A former 20-goal scorer with the Washington Capitals, Connolly has two years left on his contract after this season, coming with a $3.5M AAV Cap hit. The hope is that the 28-year-old winger can rediscover his former form and find a home in Chicago’s middle-six of the lineup.
Stan Bowman on Brett Connolly: "He adds some size to our group, which we don't have a lot of at the moment. He has a great shot, he's a goal scorer. He's one of those guys that doesn't need a lot of opportunities, he has a really good release." #Blackhawks
— Brandon Cain (@brandonmcain) April 8, 2021
As for Stillman’s fit with the Blackhawks, he’s a different style of defenseman than they have in their farm system. Mostly filled with mid-size puck-movers, Chicago’s defensive group adds a more physical defender in Stillman. He has 43 games of NHL experience with the Panthers, 34 of those games coming last season. He was averaging 19:07 minutes per game last year with the Panthers, ranked sixth on the team in blocked shots, and ninth in hits, even with only playing in half of the games. Stillman is on an expiring deal at the end of this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer.
On Stillman: "He's a different style than almost all our young defensemen… The biggest thing with him is his competitive, aggressive style. He takes pride in the defensive part of the game."
— Ben Pope (@BenPopeCST) April 8, 2021
But, Borgström is the wild card in the transaction and could potentially be a steal for Bowman.
The former 23rd overall pick in 2016, Borgström is the latest player in a rich tradition of former top picks joining the Blackhawks for a second chance. There’s no secret to Bowman’s infatuation with getting other team’s former first-round picks, wether it’s Dylan Strome, Alex Nylander, Slater Koekkoek, Nikita Zadorov, Olli Määttä, Brendan Perlini, or John Quenneville. The Chicago front office loves themselves a reclamation project.
Sometimes it works out (I would call Strome a success as a whole), but most times it does not. Could Borgström be different? Maybe.
"Anytime you would go watch Denver play those days Henrik was a dominant college player, one of the best college players I've seen in the last 10 years. Really high end skill."
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) April 8, 2021
One thing that I trust when it comes to Bowman and the Blackhawks front office is the European scouting department. These are the people who brought you Artemi Panarin, Dominik Kubalík, Pius Suter, and Michal Kempny to name a few. Borgström is currently playing in Finland with HIFK of Liiga and it’s important to note that Chicago acquired his rights. He’s not on a current deal with the Panthers and would need to be signed once his season in Finland is over. He has 19 points in 27 games with HIFK this season.
I would assume Chicago has had eyes on him overseas to feel strongly enough about his game to add to what he showed in his time playing in North America at the University of Denver and with the Panthers organization. Bowman expects to have the 23-year-old in Chicago next season.
Henrik Borgström (@FlaPanthers) ended a three-game point drought by scoring three goals in @HIFKHockey's win over Assat in the Finnish Liiga.#FlaPanthers https://t.co/h8JDskQCqF pic.twitter.com/VZnNBRpbRN
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 15, 2021
At 6’3″, 200 pounds, Borgström provides a combination of size and skill that the Blackhawks do not have in their farm system at the center position. The hope for him is that he can turn into a middle-six centerman for Chicago, anything beyond that is gravy. We’ve seen his skillset shine before in college at Denver, 95 points in 77 games played along with a National Championship in 2017 and being a Hobey Baker Finalist in 2018.
Hopefully for the Blackhawks and for Borgström, the change in scenery and the opportunity ahead of him with a thin group of centers in the Blackhawks organization is enough to elevate him to a reliable NHL-regular. For a Chicago squad that need young talent to develop into the next “core” for success, Borgström has the potential to be a building block for that development.