By: Leo Scaglione Jr., Pinch-Hitting For The Maven
The mantra in New Jersey since Ray Shero took over as general manager two years ago has been to trust the process.
The Devils’ patient approach paid off again Sunday night when the club acquired 26-year-old, left-shooting forward Marcus Johansson from the salary-cap strapped Washington Capitals in exchange for the Florida Panthers’ second-round pick and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ third-round pick in the 2018 NHL draft.
After the Capitals re-signed T.J. Oshie (June 23), Dmitry Orlov (June 30) and Evgeny Kuznetsov (July 2), the Presidents’ Trophy winners were forced to make a move due to cap constraints. “Something has to give at some point,” according to Shero.
And it did. And Shero got it.
“Washington was one of the teams we’ve watched quite a bit,” Shero said. “That includes watching Marcus. This started happening yesterday when I was talking with (Capitals general manager) Brian MacLellan as they were getting closer to signing Kuznetsov.”
Shero added, “It’s a trade that helps both teams. It helps Washington because of their cap after being able to sign a great player like Kuznetsov. And we were able to take advantage of that and added a really good young up-and-coming player in Marcus.”
Johansson, who was selected 24th overall by Washington in 2009, totaled 290 points (102 goals, 188 assists) in 501 games in his seven seasons with the Capitals. He added 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in 69 Stanley Cup playoff matches.
This past season, the Landskrona, Sweden, native played in all 82 games and scored a career-high 24 goals and 58 points. He also recorded a career-best plus-25 rating.
“Marcus had a big role in Washington for the last couple of years and really came into his own this past year,” Shero stated.
Johansson, 6-foot-1, 204 pounds, mostly skated on the left wing on a line with Kuznetsov and Justin Williams this past campaign. If he remains on the left side, he’ll likely be on the second line since Taylor Hall occupies that side on the top unit.
However, Johansson is also capable of playing center, giving the Devils multiple options.
“We are better and more dynamic up front than we have been in a while,” Shero said.
Shero is also thrilled that Johansson has two years remaining on his contract before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2019, asserting that he wants to avoid having players on long-term deals.
“Guys are hungry, and it’s the team we want to have,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with (having players on short deals and then becoming unrestricted free agents). It’s not just a one-year thing. It’s a two-year thing. In terms of improving our team today, it’s a real good move for us.”
The Devils also still own all seven of their original 2018 draft picks. The Panthers’ pick that was sent to Washington was acquired along with Marc Savard’s contract in exchange for forwards Graham Black and Paul Thompson last June. The Maple Leafs’ selection was obtained by New Jersey as compensation for their hiring of former general manager Lou Lamoriello two summers ago.
As for Johansson, he still may not know he’s been traded.
“He’s sleeping,” Shero concluded. “No one has gotten hold of him. He’s in Sweden and Washington tried calling him. They’re six hours ahead, so he’s sleeping. It’s their player, and the Capitals control when (the trade is announced). I texted him. When he wakes up, it’ll be quite the morning.”
It’s already been quite the night in New Jersey.