Rat Trick Free Agent Preview: Tim Connolly & Ville Leino

The free agent signing period begins Friday, July 1. The Florida Panthers have approximately $24 million to spend just to reach the salary cap floor, which means the team will need to be active to reach that mark. So over the next few days, we’ll be taking a look at some of the free agents that we hope might be on the Cats radar (and vice versa). In this instalment, we’ll take a look at Tim Connolly and Ville Leino.

Tim Connolly Shooting - Thesportsbuff
Tim Connolly Winds Up For Shot – Thesportsbuff

Last season for the Buffalo Sabres, Connolly took a step back in point production last season by his regards. He scored 13 goals and added 29 assists in 68 games. He missed 14 games due to various injuries (Groin, Hip, Head, and also nasal surgery).

Connolly saw his biggest point production in 2009-10 when he scored 17 goals and added 48 points in 73 games for the Sabres.

Connolly’s size and skill can be very useful for the Panthers on the wing. He stands at 6’1 and weighs 191 pounds. His speed can be used very effectively in Florida when bringing the puck into the attacking zone. Also, he is a smart player as he takes very few penalties.

Sadly, for the 30-year old, former 1999 first-round draft pick his biggest challenge is trying to stay healthy and play a complete season. Over the past four seasons, he has only averaged 59 games (48,48,73,68). And, in 2006-07 he only played in 2 games the whole season.

If the Panthers can get Connolly on the cheap he would be a great addition to our lineup. Hopefully, for the Panthers, Connolly will manage to play the full season without getting injured, and can get back to his winning ways.

Ville Leino pots a goal - usatoday
Ville Leino Pots A Goal – Usatoday

27-year old Ville Leino had a formidable season with Philadelphia last year. Unlike, Connolly, in Leino’s first full season since coming over from Finland, he only missed one game out of the entire year.

Over his 81-games last seasonLeino tallied 19 goals and 53 points. All time, Leino has 30 goals and 43 assists in 149 games.

Unlike, Connolly who was a -14 last season, Leino was a +14 all year, as he is a smart player with a good sense of positioning on the ice.

Leino has also proven that he can be a difference in the playoffs, as he helped Philadelphia reach the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 by scoring 7 goals and 14 assists only 19 games. Proving to be a clutch player, 2 of Leino’s 7 goals were game winners.

Leino would certainly be useful to the Panthers, his goal scoring, and set up abilities are amazing, but the price at which he will come at will be quite expensive.

Both these guys would be great additions into the Panthers lineup, they both have great offensive ability, and both have their down side, (Connolly Injuries, Leino Price), but as the saying goes, “You never know unless you try.”

Adam Reid
[email protected]

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