TJ Brennan is the latest youngster getting an audition on a Panthers blue line which has been decimated by injury this season.
The Panthers acquired Brennan from the Buffalo Sabres on Friday for a fifth-round pick in the 2013 Entry Draft. The Sabres, who have good defensive depth, risked losing Brennan (an RFA after this season) on waivers if they sent him down to AHL Rochester. Now he has a chance to take the next step (becoming a full-time NHLer) in his development here in Sunrise.
Brennan, a native of Moorestown Township, NJ, was the first pick in the second round of the 2007 Entry Draft (31st overall) after putting up a 16-goal, 25-assist campaign with the QMJHL's St. John Fog Devils. Brennan would garner rookie-of-the-year honors for his fine freshman effort.
He repeated those numbers in his second season (playing three fewer games) with St. John's and stayed with the club when it relocated to Montreal the following season.
In his final season in the "Q", Brennan scored 5 goals and added 29 helpers, slightly lower numbers as he began to focus more on the defensive part of his game. In the playoffs. Brennan's offensive game shone bright like a diamond as he posted 12 points in 10 games.
The Sabres inked Brennan to an entry level contract on April 18, 2009 and in the fall he was assigned to the club's AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, where he would be coached by none other than Kevin Dineen during his first two pro seasons.
In his rookie campaign, Brennan scored 23 points (6G/17A), posted a +2 rating and racked 64 PIM while appearing in 65 games. He also suited up for all four playoff games (0G/1A) as the Pirates were swept in the first round by the Manchester Monarchs.
The 2010-11 AHL season would see Brennan appear in 72 games and increase his offensive numbers, this time notching 15 goals and adding 24 helpers while posting a +5 rating. Brennan would see duty in only four of the team's twelve playoff games, again picking up a single assist.
The Sabres organization would leave Portland and switch back to Rochester as the home base for their AHL farm club for the 2011-12 season. Brennan would spend a total of 52 games with the Americans where he blasted in a career-high 16 goals while adding 14 assists. He also scored two goals in the club's three-straight playoff losses to the Toronto Marlies.
His early-season play in Rochester earned him some playing time with the Sabres and on November 23, 2011, in his first NHL game, he beat Tim "Peggy?" Thomas for his first NHL goal. Brennan would play ten additional games (going pointless) with the Sabres before returning to the Americans.
On July 17, 2012, Buffalo re-signed Brennan to a one year deal. Brennan was again sent down to Rochester, this time due to the NHL lockout, where he would flat-out excel with the Americans by posting 35 points (14G/21) in 36 games.
After the lockout ended, Brennan rejoined the Sabres, managing to get in 10 games, scoring one goal and posting a -1 rating before the trade to Florida.
As mentioned above, Brennan is a restricted free agent after the season so he is truly auditioning for a spot on the Panthers next season. I must say, after watching his debut with the Cats, I was duly impressed and can't wait to see more.
Brennan appeared to fit in seamlessly, stepping off the plane to log 23:42 minutes of ice time. He posted a +1 rating and fired four shots on Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, one resulting in the goal that sparked Florida's third period rally. His puck-carrying skills and ability to jump into the play put plenty of pressure on the Islanders defense and he did a nice job on the power play.
Brennan is an offensive-defenseman and with the Panthers desperately needing offense from anywhere and everywhere, it looks like this might be a good fit for both parties. If Brennan can provide the kind of effort we saw last night over the next 19 games, he may have said sayonara to the AHL for good and found himself a permanent home here in sunny South Florida. A small sample size, yes, but this trade looks like it could be a good one for Florida and even though that's a potential win of the off-ice variety, I'll take it, especially this season.