To cap off what has already been a rather eventful week, the Dallas Stars announced today that they have signed RFA Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract.
The Stars’ first-round pick in 2014, Honka quickly became a fan-favorite in Dallas due to his offensive ability which broke the mold of a traditional NHL defenseman. Unfortunately, his coaches were not similarly enamored — most of Honka’s tenure with the Stars has (so far) been plagued by a lack of playing time. His last NHL game was on January 15th, 2019, even though he remained on the NHL roster for the rest of the 2018-19 season.
That following off-season, the Stars quietly looked at trading Honka, but couldn’t find a willing partner. Meanwhile, Honka — instead of choosing to sign his qualifying offer and remain unutilized in the NHL — opted to return home and spend the 2019-20 season playing for JYP in the Finnish Liiga.
Although Honka has returned to Dallas, it is important to temper expectations. Head coach Rick Bowness was in charge of the defense during Honka’s last stint in the NHL, and Honka’s lackluster performance in Finland has done little to prove his coaches wrong about him. In training camp, Honka will most likely be competing for the seventh defenseman spot. Perhaps more likely, he might end up spending the entire season in the AHL instead.
Still, time away from the Stars might have been exactly what Honka needed for his development. It wasn’t too long ago that Jamie Oleksiak — another former first-rounder — was traded away to the Pittsburgh Penguins and was later reacquired. Oleksiak could now be considered a bona fide top-four defenseman. Perhaps Honka could manage a similar change in fate?
Here is the Stars’ press release about the signing:
FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has signed defenseman Julius Honka to a one-year, two-way contract.
Honka, 24, spent the 2019-20 season in Finland appearing in 46 games for JyP registering 15 points (4-11=15) and a +9 plus/minus rating. He last played in North America in 2018-19, appearing in 29 games for Dallas recording four points (0-4=4) and averaged 13:57 time on ice.
The three-year NHL veteran has combined to play in 87 career regular-season contests with the Stars and has recorded 13 points (2-11=13). The defenseman has skated in 201 AHL games for the Texas Stars, Dallas’ top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL), totaling 108 points (26-82=108). He has also appeared in seven postseason games with Texas (1-2=3).
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound native of Jyvaskyla, Finland was originally drafted by Dallas in the first round (14th overall) of the 2014 NHL Draft.