Stars

Austin American-Statesman - - CLASSIFIEDS -

the Blue Jack­ets fi­nal­ized a trade just be­fore the dead­line, swap­ping vet­eran winger Lauri Kor­pikoski for Heather­ing­ton.

“I was ex­cited about it. I hadn’t been traded be­fore so I didn’t know what to ex­pect, but it’s been great,” Heather­ing­ton said.

“Af­ter I got the call, I went home, packed some things up and I was on a plane the next morn­ing.”

One night ear­lier, cen­ter Mark McNeill took a sim­i­lar call af­ter he was dealt by the Blackhawks to Dal­las — along with a con­di­tional fourthround pick in the 2018 NHL draft — for vet­eran de­fense­man Johnny Oduya.

“You get a call from your GM around din­ner time on a Tues­day and you know some­thing is up,” McNeill said. “So it wasn’t too much of a sur­prise when I ac­tu­ally picked up the phone.”

For both play­ers, the trades sig­nal a fresh start to their ca­reers.

McNeill, 24, was a firstround pick of the Blackhawks in 2011, but he’s failed to crack the NHL team’s ros­ter.

McNeill av­er­aged 22 goals over the past three sea­sons for the Rockford IceHogs, but Chicago con­tin­u­ally passed him over while reload­ing with free agents or adding vet­eran NHL play­ers at the trade dead­line.

Heather­ing­ton was sec­ond-round pick of Colum­bus in 2013 and won a Calder Cup last sea­son with the then­named Lake Erie Mon­sters. With a stock­pile of young de­fense­men in the sys­tem and a need at for­ward, the Blue Jack­ets viewed Heather­ing­ton as ex­pend­able.

“They both add some­thing to our team, and I think they both make us a bit more phys­i­cal,” said Texas Stars coach Derek Lax­dal, whose club is next-to-last in the AHL’s Pa­cific Divi­sion and likely will fail to qual­ify for the post­sea­son for the first time in five years.

“When­ever you add new play­ers like that add at the dead­line, you know you are get­ting mo­ti­vated play­ers, and it’s good for the rest of the group.”

McNeill al­ready has made an im­pact for Texas. In seven games, he has four points and has grabbed a spot on the top line with Travis Morin and Ja­son Dick­in­son.

“It’s an easy sys­tem to play in,” McNeill said. “Plus it helps to come in and have a chance to play in key spots right away.”

Heather­ing­ton has played in six games for Texas since the trade and has been paired with Julius Honka.

Honka and Heather­ing­ton played ju­nior hockey to­gether with the Swift Cur­rent Bron­cos dur­ing the 2013-14 sea­son, and they are try­ing to re-kin­dle some of that old chem­istry.

“It helps com­ing in and play­ing with an old team­mate,” Heather­ing­ton said, “plus I know a lot of the guys here from the Western (Hockey) League.”

NICK LAHAM / GETTY IM­AGES

Texas Stars cen­ter Mark McNeill was the 18th over­all pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 draft, but he failed to make it to the NHL ros­ter.

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