The New Jersey Devils had two things going for them: a ton of cap space and a few extra draft picks.
The Washington Capitals, meanwhile, were bumping their heads against the salary cap ceiling. Evgeny Kuznetsov, their brilliant young forward, signed an eight-year deal with a $7.8 million cap hit. They still had to sign restricted free agents Andre Burakovsky and Phillipp Grubauer, and had about $70 million committed to 15 players.
GM Ray Shero was watching this unfold, from afar. He knew an apple was going to fall from this tree. The patience paid off, as the Capitals traded forward Marcus Johansson to Jersey for two draft picks.
Not just two draft picks: Florida’s 2018 2nd round pick and Toronto’s 2018 3rd round pick. The first pick arrived because the Devils took on Marc Savard’s dead cap space; the second pick arrived because the Devils were compensated for Lou Lamoriello leaving for the Maple Leafs.
And they turned those two picks into Marcus Johansson. Not bad.
In Johansson, the Devils get a versatile forward who can play multiple positions as well as up and down the lineup. He’s 26 and coming off his best offensive season in the NHL, with 24 goals and 34 assists. The Devils have him for the next two seasons at a $4,583,333 cap hit. He’s a significant upgrade in talent at the forward spot.
Capitals GM Brian MacLellan is due to speak on Monday, and it should be fascinating. As Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post writes, it’s not been a good few weeks for him:
Trading Johansson is the latest move in what has been an underwhelming summer for Washington. Coming off a third straight second-round exit in the postseason after posting the league’s best regular-season record in back-to-back years, the Capitals lost defenseman Nate Schmidt in the Las Vegas expansion draft for nothing after they tabbed him for a top-four role. Had the team expected to move salary this summer in order to re-sign its restricted free agents and retain Oshie, then Washington may have been able to trade Johansson or another player before the expansion draft in order to protect Schmidt and keep the blue line intact.
The Capitals also chose not to buy-out 36-year-old defenseman Brooks Orpik, who played reduced minutes last season and has a $5.5 million cap hit for the next two years. Johansson is under contract for two more seasons with a $4.583 million cap hit, and as a comparison, winger Justin Williams just signed a two-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes that’s worth an average of $4.5 million annually. Williams is nine years older than Johansson and scored 10 fewer points with Washington last season.
Buckle up, Capitals fans.
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