The Florida Panthers won’t be bringing back trade deadline acquisition Lucas Wallmark, at least not next season. The restricted free agent forward has signed a one-year deal in the KHL with CSKA Moscow, ending his NHL career for the time being.
Wallmark, 25, was half of the return the Panthers received from the Chicago Blackhawks for Brett Connolly, Henrik Borgstrom, and Riley Stillman. The team used him just four times down the stretch and didn’t dress him in the playoffs, meaning they’ll receive very little in the trade. His rights can be retained with a qualifying offer, but it’s not clear whether he’ll actually be back in time for them to actually receive any benefit from that. Wallmark will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2022, regardless of where he spends the next two seasons.
It was an interesting move at the time, given how little the Panthers seemed to value Wallmark the first time they acquired him in 2020. Part of the deal that saw Vincent Trocheck head to Carolina, Wallmark played seven games for the Panthers that season, played twice in the bubble qualification round, and then was left without a qualifying offer. He became an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks, and ended up back in Florida by the end of the year. It’s not really like anything changed during that time; in fact, Wallmark failed to score even a single goal in his 16 games with Chicago.
The fact that he has signed a deal in the KHL this early could suggest that he already knows the Panthers were going to leave him unqualified once again. While this could change that decision, it doesn’t appear as though he has much of a future in Florida. In 187 regular season games, Wallmark has 23 goals and 59 points.