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NHL Trade Buzz: Islanders Shore Up Top Nine, Florida Frees Up Cap Space Ahead of Deadline

The New York Islanders and Florida Panthers, both locked in tight playoff races, have made the first big moves leading up to Monday’s NHL Trade Deadline. The Islanders, looking for a top six winger to fill in for the injured Anders Lee, nabbed Kyle Palmieri from the New Jersey Devils. Palmieri could see time next to either top line center Mathew Barzal or second line center Brock Nelson. In addition to Palmieri, the Islanders also acquired center Travis Zajac in the deal, who should help shore up their third line. In exchange for Palmieri and Zajac, the Devils received a 2021 first round pick, a conditional 2022 fourth round pick (the pick will become a third rounder if the Islanders reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals), and minor leaguers AJ Greer and Mason Jobst. 

This trade will likely set the standard for what it will take to acquire a top available player. By sending both Palmieri and Zajac, New Jersey was likely able to get a first round pick out of the deal; with just Palmieri, that seemed unlikely. This trade could also play a factor when it comes to Buffalo’s Taylor Hall. Reportedly, the asking price for Hall is a first round pick and a prospect. After the Palmieri deal, that return could be likely, especially now that Palmieri is no longer available. 

The Florida Panthers, who have been mentioned by many as buyers, completed a swap with the Chicago Blackhawks that involved five players. The Panthers sent forward Brett Connolly, defenseman Riley Stillman, forward Henrik Borgstrom, and a 2021 seventh round pick to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Lucas Carlsson and forward Lucas Wallmark. Connolly, 28, had signed a 4 year deal, $14 million ($3.5 million AAV) with Florida in 2019 after winning the Stanley Cup with Washington. Although his first season in the Sunshine State saw him score 19 goals in 69 games, Connolly has struggled this season with just two goals and four points in 21 games.

For taking on Connolly’s contract, the Chicago Blackhawks gained a solid prospect in Riley Stillman, who has good size and defensive awareness. They also grab a potential project in Henrik Borgstrom; the 23 year old is a former first round pick (2016) but hasn’t quite put it together in the NHL. After spending three years in the organization, Borgstrom put up 19 points in 58 NHL games and 45 points in 73 AHL games. He is currently playing this season in his native Finland, where he has 19 points in 27 games. 

On the Panthers side of the deal, Carlsson, 23, will bring them defensive depth. He played just 12 games with the Blackhawks this season and most recently was a member of their taxi squad. Wallmark is a depth forward who has played 16 games with Chicago, scoring 3 points. Florida will likely still be in the market for a defenseman who can play in their top four; this move opens up some cap space for them to acquire one. 

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