Throughout the season, Julius Honka found himself playing less and less. He only played 29 games this season and spent the majority of the 82 game season as a healthy scratch. The former first-round pick has more than likely played his last game in a Dallas Stars uniform.
The Stars extended him a qualifying offer before Tuesday’s deadline. They hope to retain his rights in an effort to trade him and receive something for him instead of letting him walk. During the season the front office tried to move Honka but at the time his value wasn’t very high.
Now that the salary cap is less than what everyone had thought it would be, more teams are in a bind in terms of signing free agents. This is where Honka’s value starts to increase. Honka is a right-handed defenseman who also has a cap hit of less than $1 million. That would help some teams who need a defenseman who also don’t have much cap room. While the return for Honka won’t be significant it is still time for Honka to get a fresh start elsewhere.
Here are the three teams that make sense to acquire Julius Honka:
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks look as if they have a decent amount of cap space with just under $15 million available. Then, come to find out, they only have 15 players under contract for next season. In addition, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi both look like as though they are already on their way out of San Jose.
Of players that could return for them, RFA Timo Meier should be their top priority. Meier should end up costing them somewhere in the $7-8 million range. They also have looked at keeping forwards Joe Thornton and Gustav Nyquist. There are rumors that Patrick Marleau might head back to the bay on a cheaper deal.
In terms of defenseman, the Sharks only have two right-handed defensemen on their roster in Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson. They could look to bring in Honka to be the third pairing defenseman on the right side. It makes sense for San Jose because he comes cheap and fills a need.
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The Anaheim Ducks enter free agency with $10.95 million in cap space. They should not appear to make a big splash because most of their roster is filled. They also have some young guys that they would like to see make the big league roster next year.
The Ducks currently have five defensemen under contract for next season. Of those five, two of them shot right-handed. They may be looking to add someone via free agency but with the way their cap situation looks in the coming years in addition to their pending RFAs, spending big this summer may not be a smart idea.
Adding Honka is a good fit because he fills a need that the Ducks should look to fill. Honka may even end up getting top-four minutes on this Anaheim squad. The Ducks definitely have the draft capital to make a move for Honka.
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Toronto Maple Leafs
The Leafs are slowly but surely getting to where they want to be this offseason. They re-signed both Kaspari Kapanen and Andreas Johnsson to team friendly deals. They now have $5.5 million in cap space with RFA Mitch Marner still on the to-do list.
At the NHL draft last week the Leafs moved Patrick Marleau to Carolina. It appears that there is a deal in place to move Nikita Zaitsev to Ottawa for Codi Ceci. That still does not clear enough room to extend Marner. In addition, GM Kyle Dubas is still attempting to move Nazem Kadri. There are many things going on in ‘Leaf Land’ and we should be bombarded with Toronto news in the upcoming days.
Honka makes sense for Toronto because he fills a need on the right side of the blueline and will cost the team less than $1 million. The team currently has two right-handed defensemen. Saving money with the low cap hit should help them in trying to sign Marner.
After the draft last week, it was said that teams were calling Stars GM Jim Nill about the availability of Julius Honka. Next season Honka will be playing hockey for a team other than the Dallas Stars. Fans may have to wait on Honka news for a little while as it appears that maybe that Nill is waiting to see how free agency falls first before making his decision to move Honka.
Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars, the NHL and the NHL Draft for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.