While the clock wound down closer to 5:00 p.m. Eastern time Sunday, it was becoming increasingly apparent the Dallas Stars’ 2014 first-round draft pick, Julius Honka, was not going to be playing hockey in the NHL this season. Several teams were said to be in the hunt, but when the restricted free agent (RFA) deadline arrived, no movement was made.
Before the season started, Honka requested he be traded from the Stars. This request came as no surprise to many people since Dallas has a plethora of talent on defense. Honka, in order to get a regular role, has to compete with the talents of John Klingberg, Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and several others.
While the team holds his rights, Honka continues to play in Finland for JYP Jyväskylä. With him expressing his desire to play in North America again, Dallas needs to figure out what they want to do with the 23-year-old Finnish defenseman.
A Promising Player
Honka was a top rated prospect ranked 11th on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau’s final list of 2014 NHL Draft eligible North American skaters. During the 2012–13 season, he played with the Finland men’s national U-18 team at both the 2013 IIHF World U18 Championships and the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament. During the 2013–14 Western Hockey League season, he competed with Finland to win gold at the 2014 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships and was picked to play in the 2014 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game.
Honka signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Stars in 2014. He scored his first career goal in 2016-17 in overtime against the Arizona Coyotes. In the following season, he was sent down to the Stars’ American Hockey League affiliate the Texas Stars. He was recalled and remained with Dallas for a career-high 42 games in 2017-18. Last season, he played 29 games, recording 10 minutes of playing time and four assists. For his career, he has recorded 13 points over 87 games with the Stars.
Honka comes from a family of hockey players. Most recently his younger brother Anttoni was picked in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.
During Honka’s time in the AHL and NHL, he has shown significant potential to be a nightmare for opponents on the power play. The Stars did make an offer to him, but was not signed.
Where Honka Could Land
While Honka is unable to play in the NHL this season, the Stars can still trade his rights for next season. The Stars need to make that move happen as quickly as possible, as his trade value is only deteriorating as time passes. However, Dallas is at a crossroads as to what they need. The Stars already have a surplus of forwards and the amount of defense the team has is why Honka requested a trade in the first place. The Stars need to find drafts picks or long-term investments in order to ensure the best value in a trade.
A Deal with the Devils
The New Jersey Devils have one of the worst defenses in the league, and with a few of their players, Father Time is not on their side. P.K. Subban and Andy Greene are already into their 30s and Matt Tennyson is right behind them. The statsheet has also not been kind to the Devils defense. New Jersey allows the seventh-most goals and ninth-most shots on goals, while possessing the 10th-worst penalty kill in the NHL. Simply put, the Devils have a big problem on defense.
A trade with New Jersey could be a real possibility for Honka. He wants an opportunity to show his worth on the ice for a regular spot. Being a factor on the defensive zone could be the perfect opportunity for him to show his merit. The other side of this chance is on the power play. While he is not necessarily Heiskanen, his promise to be a force on the man advantage could spark interest from the Devils. New Jersey has the fourth-worst power play in the NHL and second-worst in the Eastern Conference.
New Jersey has two fourth-round picks in the 2020 Draft that could be up for grabs, as well as a third-round pick in 2021. Those picks not might be enough for Dallas, but in the right combination, possibly with a prospect, that could change things.
North of the Border
The only team that has allowed more goals this season than the Montreal Canadiens are the Detroit Red Wings. The Canadiens also have the second-worst penalty kill percentage in the NHL. It goes without saying but Montreal might need a little bit of help on the defensive zone.
Habs fans have expressed their desire for Honka, but the front office might not be making the right proposals for the Stars. Montreal sounds like they are more interested in a player-for-player swap, which is not what the Stars are looking for. At this time, the Stars roster is full of talent in every aspect. However, as the trade deadline approaches, injuries and concerns could change the Stars tone as they make a playoff push. It’s something to keep an ear to the ground for as the Feb. 24 deadline gets closer.
Just under 1,500 miles away from Montreal, the Winnipeg Jets are also a skeptical landing spot for Honka. With Jacob Trouba moving to the New York Rangers and whatever is going on with Dustin Byfuglien, the Jets need long-term answers on defense. The Jets do have some mid-round picks to give but with Honka being a mystery, Winnipeg might not make a move. There is also the idea that making a deal with a divisional rival could be a fruitless move for the Stars.