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Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

Two months after Caps traded him, Marcus Johansson is looking forward to fresh start with Devils

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. 

RELATED: Braden Holtby is looking at bright side of offseason changes

“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.”

MORE CAPITALS: The 25 Most Important Players for the Caps — No. 17 Christian Djoos

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

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Who ya got? Trotz faces tough choice in net after Holtby's strong return

Braden Holtby has made Barry Trotz’s weekend very difficult, but in a good way.

Back-to-back games against the New York Islanders offered the Capitals an opportunity to play both Philipp Grubauer and Holtby. Grubauer stayed hot earning another win for Washington. On Friday, Holtby got his first start since March 6 and played very well.

“A win is good,” Holtby said after the game. “I felt pretty comfortable. Some things to build off of and things that I want to get better at. It was a step in the right direction.”


A 22 save effort on Friday was bookended by two big saves. The first shot Holtby faced was a turnover on the power play that led to a dangerous shorthanded scoring opportunity for John Tavares early in the first period. Then in the third, with the Capitals leading 5-3 and the Islanders trying to mount a comeback, Holtby turned aside a breakaway opportunity for star rookie Mathew Barzal.

“I thought he was pretty solid,” Trotz said. “He looked really confident.”

“I felt a lot better,” Holtby said. “Not that I was feeling horrible before, it's just you get refreshed. It's like anything, you have a week off work, a holiday or something, you come back a little refreshed.”

And that brings us to Sunday.

On Sunday, the Capitals play the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers are a team in playoff position in desperate need of points after seven of their last eight games.

When asked on Wednesday who he thought would start Sunday’s game, Trotz said, “We're in a result business and we need some results so we'll see who is looking the sharpest and gives us the best chance to win.”

Both Grubauer and Holtby were impressive in their starts over the Islanders. You can’t argue Holtby is suddenly the hotter hand after one win considering how well Grubauer has played of late, but if Holtby remaisn the team’s No. 1, shouldn’t he get the next start after a strong winning performance?


Trotz was asked after the game who would start on Sunday after Holtby’s win.

“They're both playing well so I can't even answer that right now to be honest with you,” he said. “I do know that we have a number of games this week and whatever way go, obviously I'm going to sit down with the coaches and whatever way we go, I think they're both going to get some time this week.”

“I think you have to take it game-by-game,” Trotz added. “Bottom line is that you've got to make a decision and go with it and if your decision is that goalie A is a little hotter or you've just got a gut feel then you go with it and you have to live with it good or bad.”

So for now, it sounds as if we will see a rotation in net as Trotz continues evaluating which netminder gives the team the best chance to win in the playoffs. It is a tough position for the Caps’ bench boss, but, if both goalies continue to perform, having to choose between a hot Grubauer and a resurgent Holtby is a good problem to have and much preferable to having to choose between backup Grubauer and slumping Holtby.

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Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

Kuznetsov to be evaluated Saturday after leaving Islanders game with "upper body" issue

The Capitals may have won the game Friday against the New York Islanders, but now they will wait to see if they also suffered a significant loss.

Kuznetsov left the game in the third period after taking a slash from Islanders defenseman Thomas Hickey which sent him sliding head-first into the boards. The team labeled the issue as “upper body” when it was announced he would not return to the game.

Head coach Barry Trotz was tight-lipped afterward on Kuznetsov’s status.

“They're going to re-evaluate him tomorrow and we'll have some clarity hopefully tomorrow,” he said.


You can see the play here:

When Kuznetsov is first slashed he immediately reacts. His feet then catch the stick of goalie Jaroslav Halak which sends him tripping and sliding hard into the boards. He sat on the ice for several minutes afterward and was looked at by the trainer before getting to his feet and slowly making his way to the locker room.

When asked after the game what he felt about the slash, Trotz said only, “Hockey play.”

One of the Capitals’ biggest strengths as a team is their depth down the middle. Any injury to a center, considering it is arguably the most important skating position on the ice, would be significant. An injury to the team’s top-line center would be even more costly.

Kuznetsov leads the team with 28 assists and ranks second in both goals (21) and points (69).