Every team needs the player that is oft forgotten about. Just someone that is hanging out as part of the roster, might chip in a couple productive moments throughout the season, and then appear absolutely invisible for most of his time employed by the team. Kevin Connauton was that for the Philadelphia Flyers in their 2021-22 season.
In a campaign where most fans want to forget it completely — and rightfully so — Connauton served as the guys of guys. He was claimed off of waivers from the Florida Panthers in December, as just a sure why not sort of pick-up. Best case scenario, you get a guy that can just be a body on your blue line who isn’t completely terrible — and the worst case scenario is you just chuck him back on waivers and send him to Lehigh Valley if he truly stinks it up.
Before he stepped foot in Philadelphia, Connauton played games for five different organizations in his nine years of NHL hockey. Never playing a full season anywhere, just drifting around. Hell, the Flyers’ waiver claim was the third time he’s changed teams that way. Just always the depth guy that is eventually disposable. You kind of have to feel for the guy.
Anyways, let’s see what the journeyman did this season for the stinky, awful Flyers.
By the Numbers
Connauton played 13 games for the Panthers in the six or so weeks he was in Florida before changing teams once again. And for the rest of the season, he played just 26 more. Through those games, Connauton scored one single goal and earned three points while averaging 13:36 TOI per game. He truly was just hanging out.
What more can you really say? Inarguably, when he switched from a Cup contender in the Panthers, to a team struggling to even score any semblance of a goal, his underlying metrics decreased dramatically. In Florida, he was cruising with a 5-on-5 on-ice shot attempt percentage of 55.49; when he was on the Flyers, that dropped like a bag of bricks thrown off a roof, going all the way down to an abysmal 43.16. That massive drop was the same for basically every other metric. Expected goals percentage? Massive. On-ice goals for? Wowza, that’s a drop of 26.67 percent. Every little stat on the Flyers was in the low-40’s and that is a sign of a truly awful player that makes their team much worse when they’re on the ice.
Of course, 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 by that much.
Connauton must be the nicest guy that has ever been in the locker room, because for some reason, after playing just 26 games and putting up numbers that you would probably get when throwing an AHL depth defenseman out against some tough competition, the Flyers re-signed the 32-year-old to a new contract. It is for two years, but it is a two-way deal — meaning that he will be earning a different salary in the AHL and NHL. So, we shouldn’t necessarily expect him on the blue line at the start of the season. But he will certainly be around in the organization and pop his head in every once in a while.
It’s a deal that truly doesn’t matter at all, and Connauton could at least provide some veteran companionship for a young group of Lehigh Valley defensemen that could feature the likes of Ronnie Attard, Yegor Zamula, Adam Ginning, and Mason Millman. There’s some value in getting a guy that might be comfortable playing in the AHL well into his mid-30’s. So, thanks Kevin.
Connauton was inoffensive this season in the literal meaning of the word. Just there for a grand total of 354 minutes and will be here in case he is needed ever again.