Updated 12:02 p.m.: The Capitals signed their lone remaining free agent Saturday, four days ahead of when veterans must report to training camp, inking forward Marcus Johansson to a two-year contract worth $4 million.
Johansson, who turns 23 on Oct. 6, will earn $1.825 million in 2013-14 and $2.175 million in 2014-15. The annual salary cap hit for his new contract is $2 million, leaving Washington with $665,705 remaining in space and 13 forwards in the fold for the upcoming season — without counting prospect Tom Wilson.
It’s the type of bridge contract that seemed likely for Johansson, who was believed to be seeking a deal upwards of $2.25 million annually but held little leverage this summer as a restricted free agent without arbitration rights.
The situation ultimately did play out in the Capitals’ favor as they brought back one of their promising home-grown talents at a cap friendly rate. And while Johansson may not have received the type of contract he was hoping for, the deal should give him plenty of incentive to continue working on his development so he can cash in down the road.
“The way the agreements are worked now, kind of the second contract for the most part, there’s certain parameters set by it and he kind of falls into that category,” Coach Adam Oates said. “He’s got a great opportunity to start with two great hockey players [Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom] in a good situation where the coaches like him, the GM likes him and he’s got an opportunity for the next couple years to prove he can be a dominant player in this league and then you get rewarded if you succeed.”
This type of contract that serves as a bridge between a player’s entry-level deal and later stages of free agency and allows teams to keep salaries low has become more popular across the league. Players like Montreal’s P.K. Subban, who signed a two-year deal in 2012 with a $2.875 annual cap hit, and Philadelpha’s Sean Couturier, whose two-year deal had a $1.75 million annual cap hit, are recent examples and Toronto hopes to do something similar with restricted free agent Nazem Kadri.
It doesn’t always make for speedy negotiations, though, players know. So the Capitals are glad to know that they will have everyone on the ice for the first practice of training camp Thursday.
“You look at teams in the last two years with players coming off their entry-level [deals], there’s going to be players like that every year that come right down to the wire. So I think we’re fortunate this year,” Braden Holtby said. “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.”