Morin was originally acquired by Chicago in 2010, and aside from a stint in Columbus last season, that's where he's spent most of his career. He's never been able to regularly crack the NHL, but has produced well in the AHL with 132 points in 186 AHL games, all for the Rockford Ice Hogs.
In the 2015/2016 season, Morin has had 22 points in 28 AHL games, but hasn't been able to crack the Blackhawks NHL roster. Over the course of his career, he's managed 22 points in 82 NHL games, which have come in bits and pieces over multiple seasons. He has one year remaining on his contract at $800,000, after which he will become a restricted free agent. This also means that the Leafs can keep him in the AHL without any cap hit.
Richard Panik is a similar story. After being acquired on waivers last year by the Leafs, Panik found himself on the outside looking in after preseason. This was despite playing pretty well in a bottom 6 role for the Leafs in 2014/2015. In large part, Panik's demotion was the result of the Leafs offseason bolstering of their bottom 6 with bargain bin free agents.
Like Morin, Panik has always succeeded in the AHL, and this season is no exception. With 25 points in 33 games for the Marlies, Panik has arguably deserved a callup to the Leafs more than players like Byron Froese and Rich Clune. For whatever reason, that never happened, and Panik will have to try and break through the Hawks talented forward group to reach the NHL.
I find this a curious trade, because the players seem so similar. The two players are both 24 year old wingers with a history of AHL success, and limited time at the NHL level. In a sense, it's an exchange of lottery tickets between the two clubs - both players are still quite low on the depth chart of their new teams and will find it hard to climb into a regular NHL role. If we dig deeper, we can start to see some differences in the players.
Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) created the following graphic comparing the two players.
Both 24, yet to see NHL mins this yr & have averaged ~0.75 PPG in the A. JM more eff at NHL level but less exposure pic.twitter.com/kgfh6evR7N— Domenic Galamini (@MimicoHero) January 4, 2016
It should be noted that for both these players, their NHL samples are quite tiny, but it seems as though Morin has had more success at the NHL level than Panik. If we look at their AHL numbers from this year, Morin seems to be a better shot generator, recording 2.64 shots on goal to Panik's 2.0.
Recently, Panik has been on the top line for the Marlies, playing with Josh Leivo and the red hot William Nylander (until he left for the World Junior Hockey Championships). We don't have TOI data for the AHL, so it's hard to add more context to this, but perhaps thats what the Leafs front office liked in Morin.
As mentioned earlier, both players will be in tough to consistently break the NHL rosters of their new teams - perhaps one or both of them do, but for the time being, this seems more like an AHL deal than a NHL one.
For more information on Richard Panik, please see our T25U25 post on him this past offseason, where he was ranked 9th in the Leafs organization.
Let us know what you think of the trade in the comments below.
EDIT: Remember that part where I said Panik would be in tough to make the Blackhawks roster? Well, looks like I'm wrong.
Q says Richard Panik will be on the #Blackhawks roster, not the IceHogs.— Mark Lazerus (@MarkLazerus) January 4, 2016
I'm curious to see if he sticks at the NHL level, or whether he's going to start in Chicago and then get demoted at some point.