Countdown to Arbitration, Take 2: The Marcus Johansson Case


There has been a lot of excitement within the past days for the Washington Capitals and their fans.  Franchise goaltender Braden Holtby and the Capitals agreed to a five-year extension worth $30.5 million.  Both sides met with the arbitrator, but they did not wait for the arbitration ruling and agreed to a long-term deal instead.

Holtby is a major piece of the Capitals long-term future and will be the main guy for the Capitals in between the pipes for years to come.  But the Capitals still have one more of their restricted free agents left to re-sign: Marcus Johansson.

062609_JohanssonMarcus Johansson, 24, was the Capitals first round pick of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.  The Landskrona, Sweden native set career highs in 2014-15 in goals (20) and points (47).  He is coming off an expiring two-year deal worth $4 million.

While Mojo tallied career-high numbers and played in all 82 regular season games, it is fair to say that his production was still a bit on the low side.  Johansson spent a majority of the season bouncing up and down in the Capitals top-nine forward rotation and his point production usually came in short spurts.  Among the Capitals forwards, Mojo registered 16:28 of time on ice per game, which was 5th most in the group.

On special teams, he was used on the Capitals first powerplay unit mainly as a decoy, and he only managed to register 15 powerplay points on a unit that was tops in the NHL.  To put things more into perspective, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom each had 34 and 33 powerplay points respectively.  When it came to the Capitals penalty kill, Johansson was not used much in that area.

Player Comparables

Beow is a list of NHL players from other teams who are comparable to Marcus Johansson.  These players are close in age to Mojo and they also register similar point production to Mojo.  I have also included the players’ cap hits in order to give the reader a better grasp of how the market value is for the group.

Marcus Johansson (WSH) – 24 YRS OLD – 20 G, 47 PTS – RFA
Michael Frolik (CGY) –
27 YRS OLD – 19 G, 42 PTS – $4.3M
Craig Smith (NSH) – 25 YRS OLD – 23 G, 44 PTS – $4.25M
Anders Lee (NYI) – 25 YRS OLD – 25 G, 41 PTS – $3.75M
Reilly Smith (FLA) –
24 YRS OLD – 13 G, 40 PTS – $3.425M

Courtesy: General Fanager

Capitals Salary Cap Situation

According to General Fanager, the Washington Capitals have only about $4.2 million left in cap space to play with.  This is not a lot of wiggle room for the Capitals because they would like to re-sign Johansson and possibly sign another free agent forward.

The $4.2 million in cap space could potentially grow if the Capitals either make a trade or put someone on waivers.  The most likely thing that will happen for the Capitals is that they will waive goaltender Justin Peters and they will assign him to Hershey (AHL).  Once they complete that transaction, it will free up about $950,000 in cap space.

What is Mojo’s Role?

johanssonThe Washington Capitals have re-tooled their forward group over this summer with the additions of T.J. Oshie and Justin Williams.  These two players were brought in to the organization to help solidify the Capitals top-six forward rotation.

Will Marcus Johansson still be viewed as a top-six forward among Capitals GM Brian MacLellan during the arbitration process?  Do the Capitals have enough evidence to prove that Johansson could arguably be a bottom-six player with his relatively low numbers?

Johansson has been given many chances to stick in the top-six rotation.  He was on the top line with Ovechkin and Backstrom for a good number of games, but he did not gel and show much chemistry with them.  He was also given many chances to take the Capitals second line centre spot before Evgeny Kuznetsov eventually took control of it.

The Capitals forward group became more crowded over the summer and Marcus Johansson could be a player that will have a reduced role because of it.  While he played a healthy number of minutes in games last season, one would think that his points would be more in the 55-65 range instead of 47.

May 5, 2012; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) talks with Capitals center Marcus Johansson (90) during a stoppage in play against the New York Rangers during the third period in game four in the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center. The Capitals won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Price Has to be Right

With Johansson’s role possibly being reduced next season due to added forward depth, the Capitals have to be careful with his new contract.  Will the Capitals want to go short-term again with Marcus Johansson?  Has Johansson shown enough consistency to be viewed as a top-six forward?

My feeling on Johansson is that he has been way too inconsistent for the Capitals.  I feel he has been given every opportunity to secure a top-six spot for the Capitals, but I do not feel his production is at top-six level.

An alarming statistic that I see involving Marcus Johansson involves his playoff production.  Believe it or not, Johansson has actually played in 44 career playoff games.  He only has 5 goals in his playoff career.  If Marcus was a consistent playoff performer, I would be more inclined to give him a bigger contract extension.

NHL Career Stats: Marcus Johansson

Do the Capitals want to risk giving Marcus Johansson a long-term deal that has a cap hit over $4 million?  What if Mojo’s production dips significantly when he gets his new extension?

I feel the best thing the Capitals should do is to negotiate another bridge deal with Mojo.  Both sides should try to avoid the arbitration ruling altogether.  I believe something that is 2-3 years in length is good for both sides.  With another bridge deal, Johansson can prove that he can put up bigger numbers and have a greater role with the team, while the Capitals can hold on to another valuable young asset.

In terms of dollars, I think the Capitals should not go north of $4 million per season.  I believe that if the Capitals can get Johansson with a cap hit of $3.5-3.75 million per season, they should give him the extension.  (Note: For a transcription of the most recent interview with Johansson, check out Hockey Ramblings here.)

So what are your opinions Capitals fans?  What is Mojo’s role going to be with the team next season?  How much do you think he should get on his next contract?

By George Foussekis


About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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4 Responses to Countdown to Arbitration, Take 2: The Marcus Johansson Case

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