Seven years after being drafted 14th overall, it appears that Julius Honka’s time with the Dallas Stars organization is finally over. The 25-year-old defenseman has signed a two-year contract with Lulea HF in the SHL. Though the Stars could retain his restricted free-agent rights this summer with a qualifying offer, Honka will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2022-23 season after he turns 27.
It certainly hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Finnish defenseman. Honka was picked in the first half of the first round after an outstanding season with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL and immediately joined the Texas Stars in the AHL as a teenager. During the 2014-15 season, he scored 31 points in 68 games while also returning to the World Juniors where he had won a gold medal the year prior. It looked like the Stars had a future top-pairing defenseman on their hands, but that didn’t end up being the case.
Over the next few years, Honka eventually got a chance at the NHL, but recorded just 13 points in 87 games and was scratched more than he played. By 2019 he wanted out and ended up playing all of last season in Finland while hoping for a trade. That made it somewhat surprising when he signed a one-year, two-way deal for the 2020-21 season, returning from Europe just to play in the AHL once again. Honka had five points in 17 games for Texas this season and didn’t see a minute of game time with Dallas.
He’ll get his chance to join another organization when his rights eventually expire, but it’s hard to know what kind of NHL opportunity will be waiting for Honka at that point — or if he even wants it.