Want to know what it's like to get traded after seven years in the same organization?
Ask Marcus Johansson — who, two months after being dealt from the Capitals to the Devils, is still a player between homes...and uniforms.
Monday morning, Johansson skated with his former teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex while sporting a Washington helmet, a Washington practice jersey but New Jersey pants and New Jersey gloves.
So what brought him back to town? After spending most of the summer in Sweden, he needed to pack up his Arlington home and move his family up the Jersey Turnpike. And, of course, get in some cardio.
“I was texting with [Capitals defenseman John Carlson], and he told me to come in,” Johansson said. “It’s fun to be [back] here. You miss all the guys, from the trainers to the equipment staff and everyone. So it’s fun to be here and see everyone and kind of still feel you know them really well, and it doesn’t change just because you changed teams.”
It’s fun but “weird” at the same time.
“Yeah, it feels different,” he said of getting dressed in the Capitals’ locker room as a member of another team. “It feels weird. I wasn’t sure if I was going to come in at first or not. This has been home for seven years, and now it’s not anymore. So it feels a little different, but it seems like there’s a lot of changes going on around here and it’s not just me that’s leaving. It’s going to take a little while for me to get used to it. This going to be somewhat of a different team than it’s been in the past here.”
Johansson enjoyed a career year in 2016-17, amassing 24 goals and 58 points in 82 games. But that didn’t keep the Capitals’ 2009 first-rounder from becoming a cap casualty. Because shortly after Evgeny Kuznetsov was signed to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension in early July, Johansson and his $4.6 million cap hit were on the move, dealt to New Jersey for a couple of draft picks.
For the Caps, it was a tough but necessary business decision. For Johansson, it upended his life.
“It’s part of the game," he said. "Sometimes you have to change things, and we had some good opportunities to win these past two years, and we didn’t take them and this is what comes afterward.
"You have to change something, and guys needed new contracts and stuff like that, so that’s the way it goes. There’s nothing more to say about it.”
The 26-year-old added: “It's a little bit different, but I guess it's a part of the game, and I got to learn that the hard way. But I'm excited for it. It's going to be a good challenge — fun to take the family somewhere new and start a new adventure.”
That new adventure starts a few weeks from now with a Devils’ team that finished last in the Eastern Conference. New Jersey has, however, made some upgrades this summer, including drafting Nico Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick and signing college hockey star Will Butcher on Sunday.
“It's a good group,” Johansson said. “A group of young guys, the team and organization that's heading in the right direction. It feels like coming there now you're part of that almost from the start. I'm feeling really good about this. It's going to be a fun year. It's going to be a tough challenge, but I think if we're up to it, we can certainly pull it off.”
Johansson also hopes the move allows him to take on a bigger role after being overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and other stars in Washington.
“Absolutely,” he said. “I hope so. That would be fun. That's a chance to take the next step as well as a player. I'm excited for new opportunities and new challenges. You get there, and you don't really know anything. I don't know anyone, which is kind of fun, too. It's very different from the last past seven years. It's going to be exciting.”
As for the mismatched outfit he’s been wearing on the ice in Arlington the past few days?
“I got some [Devils] practice jerseys, but I didn’t bring them over,” he said with a smile. “I have them in Sweden because I felt I had enough stuff to bring over with me. And I didn’t think I was going to skate here, either.”