“It’s different, but I mean it’s a part of it,” Johansson said Saturday morning, several days into his return for the preseason. “It’s a part of the business side of the whole thing. You’re not the only one who goes through it. There were plenty of guys this year. It’s the way it goes. It was interesting to see how that side of it works. Nothing much to say about it. I’m happy to still be here and just excited to get going.”
Few words about Johansson’s contract were said even during July, when General Manager Brian MacLellan’s periodic updates only suggested status quo. Eventually, Johansson’s camp filed for arbitration at $4.75 million while the Capitals countered at $3 million, both slightly less than what each had pitched during discussions. And once the hearing in Toronto finished, the 48-hour window passed without much progress and the arbitrator filed her decision, Johansson re-signed for one year, $3.75 million.
“It’s a situation you’ve never been in before, obviously,” he said. “But it was alright. It is what it is, I guess. It’s kind of the business part of it. A lot of players have to go through it. Yeah, it was interesting.”
Asked about pre-arbitration discussions and whether he was seeking a long-term extension, Johansson only said he and the Capitals were “just trying to figure out a fair deal.” He will remain a restricted free agent next summer, still eligible for arbitration. But for now Johansson was back at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, working to build off a career year, seeking to contribute on a roster he believed has “everything we need to win the whole thing and go all the way.”
After posting career highs with 82 games, 20 goals, 47 points, 17 even-strength goals and 138 shots on goal, the 24-year-old will challenge for a top-six spot, though signing Justin Williams and trading for T.J. Oshie crowded the group somewhat. Johansson’s centering experience could nudge him toward the middle at first, given Nicklas Backstrom’s surgically repaired hip and somewhat uncertain timetable, but Coach Barry Trotz is expected to return Andre Burakovsky to center and keep Johansson on the wing.
With Eric Fehr, Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer all departing this summer, the Capitals will also hand Johansson greater responsibility on the penalty kill, though he hasn’t averaged more than 57 shorthanded seconds per game since his rookie season.
“The more responsibility you get, the more fun it is too,” he said. “I’m up for it. I’m just excited to get going and see where this year’s going to take us…This team, we’ve got it in there, we’ve just got to keep working, keep working.”
Not that the exits didn’t resonate with him.
“It’s obviously not fun to see some guys go,” Johansson said. “Your great buddies have been there for more than a few years, then all of a sudden they’re going to go play somewhere else. But that too is the business side of the whole thing, and sometimes it’s going to happen. But I think we’ve got some great new guys, great hockey players and good guys. As I said, I think they fit in really well and they’re going to give us that extra little push I think to go all the way.”