Marcus Johansson is surely feeling down about himself at the moment. The Washington Capitals have yet to offer Johansson a contract that is enticing enough to take him off the restricted free-agent market despite the teams first preseason game being just under a month away on September 14. But instead of failing to even offer Johansson viable contract, the Capitals need to show that they value his services by rewarding him with a long-term deal.
Currently, the Capitals are $5.67 million under the cap for the 2013-14 season and already have 19 players signed to one way contracts, meaning they have the necessary cap room to lock him up long term. A long term deal for Johansson so would assure that the Capitals have their number one line that was led them to the Southeast Division Title during the 2013 season locked up for the foreseeable future, as his linemates Alexander Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom are both locked up for at least the next seven seasons.
With Johansson still only 22 years old, it makes perfect sense for the Capitals to offer him a seven-year, $28 million contract. This deal would put him at a very affordable $4 million cap hit, which is $1.5 million below that of fellow 2009 first-round draft pick Matt Duchene. While some will immediately discredit Johansson as being nowhere in the class of Duchene because he isn’t as widely known and praised within league circles, the facts show that statistically he matches up to him very well. This statistical similarity is best shown in the statistics of points per 60 minutes and even-strength goals per 60 minutes, where Duchene recorded only .1 more points per 60 minutes and the same 1.8 even-strength goals per 60 minutes as Johansson.
Locking up Johansson would also reward him personally for the vast improvements he made over his first three seasons, as he developed from a question mark into a very reliable forward who can play either center or on the wing as a top-six forward. This versatility has allowed the Capitals to feature him in a variety of roles throughout his career, and he is expected to be called upon to play more on the powerplay and provide more scoring than ever before during the 2013-14 season after Mike Ribeiro left through free agency. Stepping up in the offensive end in future seasons should be expected from Johansson no matter where he plays given the fact that he has already improved his points per game average from .39 his rookie season to .65 during the last season.
In addition to the contract showing Johansson that the Capitals value him highly, it will continue to allow him to progress in a low pressure situation as he will be playing on the same line as two of the most talented hockey players in the world in Backstrom and Ovechkin. Playing with these two will assure that he gains more responsibility within the team while not having to deal with the pressure of having a team to carry on his back. And if his progression over the first three years of his career is any indication, then we will only see Johansson getting better in the future.