Every team needs the player who is often forgotten. Just someone who hangs around as part of the roster, could participate in a few productive moments throughout the season, and then appear absolutely invisible for most of their time employed by the team. Kevin Connauton was the one for the Philadelphia Flyers in their 2021-22 season.
In a campaign where most fans want to completely forget about him — and rightly so — Connauton served as a guy’s guy. He was claimed off waivers from the Florida Panthers in December when he was just a sure why not sort of pickup. Best case scenario you get a guy who can only be a body on your blue line who isn’t completely terrible – and worst case scenario is you just kick him out on waivers and send him to Lehigh Valley if it really stinks.
Prior to setting foot in Philadelphia, Connauton played games for five different organizations during his nine years of NHL hockey. Never play a full season anywhere, just drift. Hell, the Flyers’ waiver request was the third time he’d changed teams this way. Just always the type of depth that is ultimately disposable. You have to kind of feel for the guy.
Anyway, let’s see what the journeyman has done this season for the stinky, awful Flyers.
Connauton played 13 games with the Panthers in the roughly six weeks he was in Florida before switching teams again. And for the rest of the season, he only played 26 more. In those games, Connauton scored just one goal and had three points while averaging 13:36 TOI per game. He was really just hanging out.
What more can you really say? Indisputably, when he went from being a Cup contender in the Panthers to a team struggling to even score a semblance of a goal, his underlying metrics dropped significantly. In Florida, he was sailing with a 5-on-5 ice shot attempt percentage of 55.49; when he was on the Flyers, it fell like a bag of bricks thrown off a roof, going down to a appalling 43.16. This massive drop was the same for virtually every other metric. Expected goal percentage? Massive. Goals on ice for? Wowza, that’s a 26.67% drop. Every little stat on the Flyers was in the 40s and that’s the sign of a truly awful player who makes his team that much worse when he’s on the ice.
Sure, it would be better if he didn’t have Keith Yandle attached to him for the vast majority of his playing time on the Flyers, but not that much.
Connauton has to be the nicest guy that’s ever been in the locker room, because for some reason, after playing just 26 games and getting numbers you’d probably get throwing an AHL deep defenseman against tough competition, the Flyers re-signed the 32-year-old to a new contract. It’s for two years, but it’s a two-way deal, which means he’ll get a different salary in the AHL and the NHL. So, you don’t necessarily have to wait for him on the blue line at the start of the season. But he will certainly be present in the organization and will appear from time to time.
It’s a deal that really doesn’t matter, and Connauton could at least provide veteran company for a young group of Lehigh Valley defensemen that could include Ronnie Attard, Yegor Zamula, Adam Ginning and Mason Millman. There’s some value in finding a guy who might be comfortable playing in the AHL well into his mid-30s. So thank you Kevin.
Connauton has been harmless this season in the literal sense of the word. Just the for a grand total of 354 minutes and will be there in case he is needed again.