The Dallas Stars have signed restricted free agent Kevin Connauton to a three-year contract, the team has announced today. The 23-year old defenseman was acquired by the Stars from the Vancouver Canucks as part of the Derek Roy trade, and instantly made a big impression on the organization with six points in nine regular season games and then five points in nine playoff games before the Texas Stars' untimely exit in the second round.
The deal is two-way in the first year and one-way in years two and three, and overall is worth up to $2,050,000.
Connauton is likely the top offensive-minded defenseman in the system at this stage in his development, as should be expected given his age and experience in the AHL so far. Connauton has fallen out of favor a bit in the Canucks organization and certainly wasn't putting up the production numbers one would expect of a player with his skillset. In Texas, however, Connauton was given a much bigger role and he excelled at it -- leading a strong transition game with an incredibly accurate shot from distance with good hockey sense and vision with the puck on his stick.
Where Connauton will have trouble moving forward is the same reason he's yet to break into the NHL despite being considered a blue-chip prospect after his season with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Connauton needs work on his play in his own zone and when put under heavy pressure by the Barons in the playoffs he struggled with the forecheck.
Still, there is very real potential there should he find a way to balance out his game just a bit more.
The three-year contract is a two-way deal in the first year, meaning the Stars are providing for the possibility that Connauton won't necessarily be in the NHL next season. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Connauton would have to go through waivers to get back to the AHL should he not make the NHL squad out of training camp.
Here's the press release:
The Dallas Stars announced today that the club has signed defenseman Kevin Connauton to a three-year contract through the 2015-16 season. The first year is a two-way deal ($600,000 NHL; $100,000 AHL), while years two and three are both one-way ($650,000 in year two; $800,000 in year three).
Connauton, 23, was acquired by Dallas along with a second-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for forward Derek Roy on April 2, 2013. Last season, Connauton skated in 69 games for the Chicago Wolves and the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League (AHL), where he earned a combined 31 points (9G-22A) and 73 penalty minutes. He also led the Texas Stars in playoff scoring with five points (2G-3A) in nine postseason contests. In 2012, Connauton was selected to the AHL All-Star Classic in Atlantic City and won the Hardest Shot event with a 99.4 MPH shot at the AHL Skills Competition.
The Edmonton native was Vancouver's third-round selection (83rd overall) in the 2009 NHL Draft.