After winning a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals, winger Brett Connolly ultimately departed the nation’s capital to sign with the Florida Panthers during the summer of 2019.
The former sixth-overall pick had some unsuccessful stints with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins before landing in Washington. Essentially, Connolly would develop into a quality top-nine forward as a member of the Washington Capitals over the years.
In fact, Connolly would continue to experience improvements in his game and production on a yearly basis with the Caps. During the 2017 season, Brett would record a decent slash line of 15 goals and 8 assists for 23 points, along with a remarkable plus 20 rating in only 66 games played.
The 2018 campaign was another step in the right direction for the Canadian winger. While participating in 70 outings, Connolly would register a respectable line of 15 goals and 12 assists for 27 total points. Ultimately, Connolly would play a crucial role for the Caps during the playoffs, helping Washington win their first Stanley Cup versus the Vegas Golden Knights.
The 2019 NHL season proved to be a contract year for Brett Connolly and he certainly delivered. Connolly would register career-high marks in nearly all offensive categories, recording a tally of 22 goals and 24 assists for 46 total points on the year. Moreover, Connolly was exceptional on the defensive end, recording a superb plus 13 rating for the Capitals.
Ultimately, Connolly would sign a four-year deal with the Florida Panthers during the 2019 NHL unrestricted free agency period on July 1st. General Manager Dale Tallon signed Connolly with hopes of adding a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, playoff experience, even strength production, and depth to the top-nine forward unit.
In essence, the Brett Connolly signing proved to be one of the most underrated acquisitions during the 2019 offseason initially. The former first-rounder was on pace to shatter his career-high mark in goals scored during the regular season – although unable to due to the Coronavirus pandemic – recording 19 goals and 14 assists for 33 points in only 69 games.
He was exceptional on both ends of the ice with the Panthers and, in fact, he also recorded a positive takeaway to giveaway ratio of 28 to 22 on the season, while also registering a minus 3 rating on a defensively challenged Florida Panthers squad.
In addition, Connolly was a valuable weapon on even strength for the Cats, recording 15 even-strength goals and chipped in four power-play goals on the team’s second PP unit. Furthermore, while only averaging roughly 14:30 minutes of ice time per night, the recently turned 28-year-old would provide an incredibly positive impact on the team.
Without the early-season production from Brett Connolly, the Panthers could’ve been in a different spot before the start of the new year. Unfortunately, during the second half, Connolly’s offensive production dried up as he was only able to showcase a mere four goals in 29 games. If the Panthers are going to find consistent offense against a stubbornly-defensive team in the New York Islanders, then they’re going to need a consistent Brett Connolly firing away on all cylinders – like he did during the first half of the season.
In short, the former Stanley Cup champion had experienced a relatively decent season with the Florida Panthers in his first year with the club, prior to the suspension of the season due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Nevertheless, the Connolly acquisition could pay off if he can remain consistent throughout the long run. For that to happen, he will have to continue to show his form from the start of the season and carry that over into the most important parts, starting with their play-in date with the Islanders.
For Brett Connolly, 2019-20 was a year that started off rewardingly but later trended into a learning process. He’s shown that he’s capable of scoring within a top-six role, but whether or not he can sustain that production over a period of time is something that’s yet to be seen in a Cats uniform.