It was a busy morning in Frisco, Texas as the Dallas Stars started up their 2019 training camp session. GM Jim Nill spoke with the media and provided updates on the statuses of Stephen Johns, Julius Honka, and Corey Perry.
The Dallas Stars opened up their 2019 training camp session in Frisco, Texas on Friday morning, and it came with plenty of news and updates.
Shortly after Group A took the ice and began running drills, Stars general manager Jim Nill updated the media on a handful of players that will miss camp while also answering questions about the weekend session and the 2019-20 season ahead.
He opened the scrum with a handful of noteworthy updates on three players in particular.
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To start things off, defenseman Stephen Johns will not skate or participate in training camp. Johns missed all of the 2018-19 regular season and postseason while trying to recover from post-traumatic headaches and entered the 2019 offseason on an uncertain note. While he participated in development camp with Stars prospects and skated on his own a handful of times, his status for camp, the preseason, and the 2019-20 regular season was still up in the air.
In addition, Nill stated that no more questions would be accepted or answered regarding the status of the 27-year-old defender.
“Stephen Johns will not be on the ice and moving forward, and since I’d like to focus on the players here at training camp, I will not be answering any more questions,” Nill said. “If there’s an update, I’ll update everyone as soon as I get the information. But other than that, no other questions moving forward. I want the focus on the players here and we’ll go from there.”
Johns was a relatively regular starter on the Dallas blue line from the end of the 2015-16 season through the 2017-18 season and was in the middle of a career year under head coach Ken Hitchcock before suffering a concussion near the end of the season. He posted eight goals, 15 points, and a +10 rating in 75 games during the 2017-18 season and earned a three-year contract extension in the summer of 2018 as a result. But his last NHL action came on March 29, 2018, and he’s been dealing with injuries and setbacks since.
“I just want the focus to be on the team,” Nill said. “That’s important for me. We’ll work with Stephen behind the scenes, but I want to make sure the focus stays on the team because that’s what we’re here for.”
Nill followed the update on Johns with a note on 23-year-old defenseman Julius Honka. The former first-round pick was assigned to Group A prior to the beginning of training camp, but was not on the ice during their session on Friday morning. The Dallas GM provided an update on why.
“I talked to Julius Honka’s agent last night – as you probably see, he’s not on the ice – and he’s asked to get traded,” Nill said. “I’ve told his representatives that we’ll see where that goes. I’ve been talking to teams and we know their stance. Julius felt that it was probably not proper to be here and be a distraction, so I respect that. But that’s where we stand.”
Honka was selected 14th overall by the Dallas Stars in the 2014 NHL Draft and made his NHL debut with the team in Nov. 2016. But through three different coaching staffs and various NHL stints over the past three seasons, he’s yet to cement a spot in the starting lineup.
“I think there’s probably things on both sides,” Nill said about why Honka couldn’t find a fit in Dallas. “Did we handle him right at times? Yes and no, we don’t know. It’s on the player, too. You get an opportunity, and sometimes things don’t work out. There’s different personalities, but that’s sports and that’s life. Some people fit in and some don’t.”
The defender last played a game for the Stars on Jan. 15 against the Tampa Bay Lightning before serving as a healthy scratch for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. He finished the season with no goals and four points in 29 games played.
Trade rumors involving Honka arose during the 2019 NHL Draft and have stayed prevalent throughout the summer. Now, Nill is simply looking for a trade partner.
“I’ve been talking to teams and we talk all the time. Right now, the League is in a real, I guess you could say shutdown mode. All of these restricted free agents that haven’t signed have really slowed the League down. Right now, teams have their hands tied. There are teams that I have talked to that might have interest, but until they know what they can do with their RFAs, they can’t make any moves. We’ll play this out and see where it goes. In the end, I just have to make sure I do what’s right for the organization.” –Jim Nill on what goes into trading Honka
To top off the updates, Nill stated that Corey Perry would miss the next two weeks with a small fracture in his foot. He will be re-evaluated two weeks from now and is expected to start skating then, assuming everything heals properly.
“Corey Perry has a small fracture in his foot and he’ll be re-evaluated in two weeks,” Nill said. “He should be skating after that, but it depends on how it heals. He will not be on the ice for probably two weeks and we’ll do another image on it in two weeks. He took a fall on his foot and tried to get his skates on, but couldn’t do it. He’ll be missing the first part of camp. This happened on Wednesday.”
Perry was signed by the Dallas Stars as a free agent on July 1 after spending the first 14 years of his career with the Anaheim Ducks. He missed the majority of the 2018-19 season with an MCL and meniscus injury that he sustained while warming up in a preseason game. The 34-year-old played in 31 games this past season, tallying six goals and 10 points.
“I’m not too concerned,” Nill said about Perry’s status. “Corey Perry has been around a long time and he’s trained hard this summer. He wants to play as much as anybody, but it is what it is. We can’t control it and it’s happened, so we move on and go from there. But he’s in great shape, he already knows the system well, and he’s been skating with these players for the last two or three weeks anyways, so he’s got a good feel for them. Like I said, it’s something we can’t control, so we just move on.”
Perry is expected to be a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Dallas Stars. His resume is covered in various awards and accolades (as well as a Stanley Cup championship) and he’s proven to be a determined winner in his time in the NHL.
And while there’s a chance that he will be ready for opening night, Nill is excited to see the Stars’ younger players and prospects take advantage of the open spot in the roster.
“I think it’s another opportunity for a younger guy. [Perry] may be ready for the start of the season, but we’ll know after two weeks. It all depends on how the bone heals. It’s a small bone in the foot and nothing major. But it’s an opportunity for other players. We just got back from Traverse City at the prospects tournament, and our players played very well there. I’m excited about the youngsters coming up, the kids we signed as free agents, and the guys coming up from Texas. I think we’re in a good spot. We have as much depth as we’ve ever had and now we have to go do it.” –Nill on the opportunity presented to younger players
Two weeks from Friday would pin Perry’s re-evaluation around Sep. 27. That’s six days before the Stars open the 2018-19 season against the Boston Bruins, so his status for game one could fall either way.
The weekend is off to a fast start at the Comerica Center in Frisco as the Stars prepare for the 2019-20 regular season, and things are just getting started.