[Photo: After a great showing in training camp and preseason, James Neal will find himself playing with the Dallas Stars. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images]
Sometimes, you can have your cake and eat it too. The Stars' opening night lineup is no exception. The team is a true example of hard work put in by the general managers to get the team they feel will be most talented on the ice.
The Stars' other roster drama included placing defenseman Doug Janik on waivers—only to see him claimed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Dallas, in turn, traded a conditional seventh-round pick to reacquire Janik, who is expected to practice today with Dallas.
All these changes stem from the spending on Sean Avery (cap hit of $3.875 million) and Fabian Brunnstrom (cap hit of $2.25 million), which put the Stars dangerously close to the cap. The desire within the organization to keep James Neal ($821,667) with the big club didn’t make this situation any easier.
The Stars did have the option of sending Neal to the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and save themselves some stress, but GM Les Jackson said Neal earned his place with the Stars.
"He deserves to be here," Jackson said to the Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika. "He worked hard, we want him here, and we made it work to keep him here."
In practice, Stars coach Dave Tippet has been placing Neal on a line with Toby Petersen and B.J. Crombeen, and said he likes the energy of the 21-year-old Neal. Tippett also went on to say he doesn’t feel having three rookie forwards (James Neal, B.J. Crombeen, and Fabian Brunnstrom) on the roster is too many.
"Injuries and back-to-back situations tend to make those things work out," Tippett said in Mike Heika’s Stars blog. "And I believe these young players can gain plenty of experience from practice and simply from being around the team."
With the dust finally settled, the Stars have the apple of their eye (Neal) playing with the big club, Zubov recovering from injury until Oct. 31, Mark Fistric ready to gain playing time on the defense with Zubov on IR, and Janik still on the team. The departure of Chris Conner to Peoria will not be a major loss, and will allow the prospect to gain important experience in the American Hockey League.
The Stars appear to have addressed all the issues they had with the roster before their home opener against Columbus tomorrow night at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. All that is left now is to throw on the pads, lace up the skates, and show the Jackets who's boss.
Ken Armer is a senior hockey writer and Community Leader for the NHL and Dallas Stars. You can contact him on his profile or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org