The Chicago Blackhawks have opened up a bit of cap space by assigning veteran forward Brett Connolly to the AHL today according to Mark Lazerus of The Athletic. The move comes after Connolly cleared waivers earlier today and will mean $1.125MM ($375K + the league minimum of $750K) of his $3.5MM cap hit will come off the books.
That still means the Blackhawks now have a cap penalty of $2.375MM for a player not even on their roster, obviously not an ideal situation for a team pushing the upper limit. Chicago has some flexibility thanks to Andrew Shaw’s LTIR status, but that means they will not accrue additional cap space through the season for a potential deadline acquisition.
For Connolly, it’s hard to imagine how quickly things have declined. In 2018 he was a Stanley Cup champion with the Washington Capitals, playing a key role for the team and scoring six goals in the postseason. The next season he would score a career-high 22 goals with the Capitals, setting him up for a nice payday in free agency. It came from the Florida Panthers, who gave him $14MM over four years on July 1, 2019. With that in hand, he got off to a nice start in Sunrise, scoring 19 goals and 33 points in 69 games before the season was shut down.
This year though was a completely different story. Connolly had just two goals and four points in 21 games with the Panthers before a deadline deal took him to Chicago. The Blackhawks took on his entire salary while also getting Riley Stillman and Henrik Borgstrom in the deal, but Connolly couldn’t find his way down the stretch. He scored one goal and two points in ten games for Chicago, and now finds himself assigned to the AHL.
Connolly is still only 29, but with another year on his deal after this one, it will be hard to trade him without sweetening the pot for a rebuilding team. Teams like the Ottawa Senators or Buffalo Sabres who are flirting with the cap floor (pending a Jack Eichel trade for the latter) seem like ideal fits, but it’s not clear at all if they are interested at this point.