There were a few trades today that may not have looked big on paper, but garnered a lot of chatter of what could be. They involved young players looking for fresh starts with a new organization who could potentially rejuvenate their careers with a clean slate. Whether they couldn't climb the depth chart or just never fit in, these young guys couldn't capitalize on their chances in the NHL and will be getting another look to prove they belong at the NHL-level. We are reminded of Brandon Pirri's situation in which he led the AHL in scoring at age 21, but couldn't jump into the Chicago Blackhawks lineup due to their depth down the middle. He got a change of scenery in a trade to Florida last season and has 18 goals and 27 points through 51 games played with them since the trade. It's paid off for Pirri, and it could for these young players.
Here are three guys to keep an eye on with their new organizations:
Drafted 6th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, Connolly hasn't lived up to the potential that high of a draft pick should and was traded to the Boston Bruins for two 2nd round draft picks. A large part of Connolly's failed hype is that he was passed on the depth chart by many of Tampa's other young studs such as Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. Connolly did get a chance with the big club this season playing just under 12 minutes/game and earning 2nd PP unit minutes. Unfortunately a majority of his minutes were played in a 4th line role and he never did receive the top-six minutes many had hoped. Despite this, Connolly still has scored 12 goals and recorded 3 assists in 50 games played and could be an offensive boost for the Bruins given the opportunity on one of their top lines. Connolly is in a contract year and given that the Bruins just gave up two 2nd round picks for him they'll give him plenty of chances to succeed.
The once-promising undrafted gem has really dropped off since his 2012-13 season when he finished 3rd in rookie scoring with 29 points in 47 games played. Since then he's bounced around NHL and AHL organizations as he's tried to find his game again. Conacher started the season with the Islanders, but failed to be a fit on a line with John Tavares and soon found himself down in the AHL for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. With 22 points in 28 games so far down there, Conacher made himself an ideal target for an AHL swap and that is what happened with the Canucks today in a trade for Utica Comets leading scorer, Dustin Jeffrey. The Comets are gearing up for a playoff run, but Conacher could also get a shot on Vancouver's roster if the injuries start piling up. Conacher's showed great flashes of offense in both leagues and we hope the little guy can return to be a great undrafted story.
The 2011 13th overall pick always seemed to have trouble fitting into Calgary's lineup despite scoring 8 goals and 28 points in 66 NHL games played over the past four seasons. Not many will forget Baertschi potting 3 goals in his first 4 NHL games as a 19-year-old emergency call-up in 2012, but the promising Swiss prospect would find himself playing more games in the AHL than the NHL. While scoring 31 goals and 80 points through 109 games with the Adirondack Flames/Abbotsford Heat earned him chances in the NHL, Baertschi's defensive inconsistency irked the Flames coaching staff and they decided to part ways. Joining the Vancouver Canucks organization could be huge boost to his career and a move the Flames could very well regret - can't you just picture him burying passes from the Sedins?