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Stars make one last deal before deadline

Korpikoski to Columbus for defense prospect; injury that will eventually require surgery keeps Sharp off the trade market

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars made one more deal before the NHL's trade deadline Wednesday, sending forward Lauri Korpikoski to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defense prospect Dillon Heatherington.

It was the fourth trade in six days for Stars GM Jim Nill, who also moved forward Patrick Eaves, defenseman Jordie Benn, and defenseman Johnny Oduya.

"It's busy for the wrong reason to tell you the truth. You'd like to be a buyer at this time of year. But it's the situation we put ourselves in, and we know we have to get better," Nill said. "When you have the [pending unrestricted free agents], you have to decide to re-sign them or try to get some assets for them. It's all about asset allocation right now. The other part that comes into play is the expansion draft, and that came into play in a lot of these moves. You can only protect some players, you know you're going to lose some players, so you're better off to get something for players before you lose them and that was our mindset going into this week."

Video: Nill on trade deadline dealings

Korpikoski, whom the Stars signed just before the start of the season to help deal with injury issues, will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He recorded 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 60 games.

"With the injuries, he came in and did a great job for us," Nill said. "A character guy on and off the ice. He's going to a good team. He's going to Columbus, got a chance to win it. He's got a good connection there with [Columbus GM] Jarmo Kekalainenin there, so it's a good move for him."

The 21-year-old Heatherington, a second-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2013, is in his second year of pro hockey. He has six points (one goal, five assists) in 38 games with the Cleveland Monsters of the AHL this season. He was a part of the Monsters Calder Cup championship team last season.

"Big kid, 6-4, 220, he played world juniors for Canada, so he's a good prospect," said Nill. "We'll put him down in Austin (with the Texas Stars of the AHL) and let him continue his development."

Injury keeps Sharp off the market

Forward Patrick Sharp, who was another one of Dallas' pending unrestricted free agents, was expected to generate interest at the trade deadline, but he wasn't an option due to injury. Sharp will continue to play through the injury, Stars GM Nill said. But at some point, Sharp will require surgery.

"He's been playing injured for quite a while," Nill said. "He will require season-ending surgery here eventually where he's going to keep playing as long as he can. We're going to keep monitoring it kind of game-by-game, then we'll make that decision, but he will require season-ending surgery, so that's the reason he was not traded."

The Stars aren't revealing anything about the injury. Nill said Sharp is committed to playing through the injury as long as he can help the team, which is seven points of out a playoff spot with 19 games remaining.

"He wants to play. He's a big part of the leadership group on this team," Nill said. "As crazy as it sounds, we're not out of it yet, and until we're out of it, these guys are digging in, and they should be. They're professional, and their job is to play every night. It's the coach's job to prepare them every night, and that's the way we're taking it."

Notes: Hemsky expected to return Thursday

*Stars forward Ales Hemsky, who has been out since late October after undergoing hip surgery, is expected to return to the lineup Thursday, Stars GM Jim Nill said.

*Nill said forward Adam Cracknell, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, could be three to five days away from returning.

*The Stars assigned forward Remi Elie to the Texas Stars of the AHL Wednesday. Elie needed to be on the Texas roster Wednesday afternoon to be eligible to play in the AHL for the rest of the season.  

*With Hemsky's return, the Stars have 12 healthy forwards. Nill said the plan is to go with that for right now because the team has only four call-ups for the rest of the season.

"There's just four recalls, so we've got to juggle that also, so we'll monitor that as we go forward," Nill said. "We got a very hectic schedule, the whole league does, in March. There's going to be a lot of games here, and I hope there's not a lot injuries, but we'll prepare for that."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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