The Washington Capitals inked forward Marcus Johansson to a two-year, $4 million deal on Saturday.
Re-signing the promising young player was an important and sensible decision. Johansson was the final holdout from last season, and the Caps will enter training camp on Thursday with their full complement of players.
“I think we’re fortunate this year,” goaltender Braden Holtby told the Washington Post. “They got it resolved before training camp so we can have a full roster, get lines sorted out and make sure we’re doing everything possible in training camp to get us ready for the season.”
In the later stages of last season, the Capitals achieved great success with their top line of Alex Ovechkin at right wing, Nicklas Backstrom at center and Johansson at left wing. Coach Adam Oates will be wise to employ the same tactics when the 2013-14 NHL season begins. Oates’ top line combined for 31 goals and 48 assists over 21 games, and without that kind of input, the Caps would not have made the playoffs.
Johansson, 22, has been impressive over the past two seasons, racking up 46 points in 2011-12 and 22 points in last year’s shortened campaign. He has career totals of 33 goals, 62 assists and a plus/minus rating of plus-three over 183 games.
Although Johansson started his career as a center, he has the ability to play at any position and was excellent at left wing last term. The Capitals will now likely solidify their top two lines with Troy Brouwer, Mikhail Grabovski and Martin Erat making up the second-line, although Brooks Laich is good enough to steal that second-line center spot from Grabovski.
Johansson has the talent to become an exceptional hockey player. Like some of his teammates (Holtby and John Carlson for example), this upcoming season could be the one that puts him on the road to greatness.
There are still some questions remaining for the Capitals going into camp, including what to do with the gifted prospect Tom Wilson, who was solid during the Caps’ first round playoff series against the New York Rangers.
The club now has a little more than $655,000 left in salary cap space. If Wilson graduates to the main roster after camp, the Caps would have to lose salary to accommodate his $1.29 million cap hit, and that may spell ‘trade’ to one of the bottom six forwards.
Regardless of any pending shifts in the roster, the Caps did well in signing Johansson. Had he somehow fallen through the cracks, the team would be facing a rough start to the new season. The Caps must hang onto their young talent, and keeping their 2009 first-round draft pick was essential.