After observing most of the season from various press boxes, Dallas Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton will finally play again, albeit in the AHL in Cedar Park.
The Stars announced on Friday afternoon that they are loaning Connauton to the Texas Stars on a conditioning assignment, while simultaneously recalling Aaron Rome. This will allow Connauton to have a maximum of 14 days to improve his conditioning, which is a vastly better option than having him sit out games in favor of the veterans.
Connauton made his only appearance for the Stars in his NHL debut against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 24 where he went scoreless, but recorded a +2 plus/minus rating. He has been a healthy scratch in the Stars’ other 15 games this season.
Due to his contract status, the Stars cannot send Connauton to the AHL without having him clear waivers. Sending him to the AHL on a conditioning assignment allows Dallas to circumvent this edict in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and finally let him play. The Stars do not want to hinder Connauton’s development by playing him when he is not ready and setting him up to fail, but they also do not want to have another team poach him off waivers.
Stars fans have been frustrated by Connauton’s lack of playing time. As fans of a team largely considered to be in rebuilding mode, they want to see young players like Connauton get ample playing time. However, the fact he has played only one game for a team that allows opponents to attempt 59 shots per game suggests the coaches do not believe Connauton can help them right now unless there are injuries on defense. Ultimately, fans have to give the coaches the benefit of the doubt because they have seen the team practice every day, and Connauton has evidently not done enough to stand out.
Sending Connauton down to the Texas Stars can only benefit him. Having him sit in the press box every game is counterproductive, but rushing him will destroy his confidence. Playing in the AHL fixes both of those issues, since he will play productive minutes in an environment he is familiar with, and allow him to work on aspects of his game in a game-like scenario.
In the grand scheme of things, Connauton just wants to play. While this season has not been ideal for him thus far, the Stars are giving him a chance to succeed by playing for the Texas Stars. Right now, that is what really matters.