|Brian Campbell has quickly helped transform the perpetually rebuilding Panthers. (Getty Images)|
Updated Nov. 21
When the Florida Panthers acquired Brian Campbell from the Chicago Blackhawks this summer, the reactions seem to focus on one of two things: 1) Disbelief that the Blackhawks were able to find a team willing to take that contract; 2) The great lengths Florida was willing to go in an effort to reach the salary cap floor.
Campbell's contract -- an eight-year, $57 million pact that still has four years remaining after this season -- was a thorn in the side of the Blackhawks organization that had been firmly pressed against the salary cap for a couple of years. That resulted in a series of trades following their Stanley Cup winning season that cost them Kris Versteeg, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd.
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Campbell has always been a good player, but, let's face it, his contract was a cap-killer for a team that had to pay a number of other star players.
The Panthers, needing to spend millions upon millions of dollars this summer in order to reach the cap floor, sent forward Rosislav Olesz to Chicago in exchange for Campbell and his mega-contract over the summer. Through the first 19 games of the season he's been having one of the best seasons of his career, helping to lead the Panthers to the top spot in the Southeast Division as we enter the week.
Not only is he playing a team-high 26 minutes per game, nearly three more than the second-highest player on the team (fellow defenseman Jason Garrison) he's also second on the team in scoring with 18 points, and playing some of the heaviest and toughest minutes on the team.
The Panthers have won four of their past six and as a result have made a jump in this week's rankings.
Other teams on the rise include the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues, while the Dallas Stars recent five-game skid sends them in the opposite direction.