The Bruins weren’t exactly sure what they were going to get out of Marcus Johansson when they dealt for him at the trade deadline this winter.
They knew they were getting a skilled winger that could help them fill out their depth with their top-9 forward group, but there were questions about his health, his ability to play tough in the postseason and how well he would mesh with his new Bruins teammates.
Well, they are clearly sold in Johansson after watching him turn out to be one of their best forwards during the Stanley Cup playoffs. Johansson finished with four goals and 11 points in 22 games for the Bruins during the postseason and gave the Bruins the kind of depth, production and threat they were looking for out of their third line all season.
With that in mind, Bruins general Don Sweeney has made contact with Johansson’s agent JP Barry and there is expected to be a contract offer to keep him in Black and Gold. Clearly there is interest in keeping him around to be more than a rental given the way he played.
“We found that Marcus was a really good fit for our hockey club,” said Sweeney. “I was proud of how he got injured, came back and elevated his play, was really invested, thought he fit in really well with Charlie [Coyle] coming in, gave us some options on the power play, was a really good fit. Good person, great teammate and got us to a certain point. Wish we could’ve finished it off.”
Certainly Johansson sounded open to returning to Boston after really finding his groove with the Bruins in the postseason, but it also sounded like he was going to see it through to free agency as most veteran players would in his situation.
“I’ve loved it here. It’s been unbelievable. We’ll talk and see what happens and if we can work something out, this has been an unbelievable place to play. I’ve really loved it,” said Johansson. “Playing somewhere where you feel good, you’re happy and your family is happy, like it has been for me, that means a lot and it’s something I value a lot too. Hopefully we get to taking soon and we’ll see what happens.”
The problem with Johansson remaining with the Bruins?
He’s an unrestricted free agent and that means he’s going to be paid a premium if he gets to the July 1 open of NHL free agency. Johansson isn’t in the class of a player like Kevin Hayes, obviously, but watching him sign a seven-year contract worth more than $7 million is a sign to all free agent forwards that the money floodgates are open.
While Johansson won’t get the big money based on a pair of 20-goal seasons and some of the injury issues he’s endured over the last few seasons, he certainly could be in line for a long term deal paying him out $5-6 million per season. Given that the Bruins hold roughly $13 million in cap space and at least $11 million of that could be eaten up by RFAs Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen, it will take some maneuvering to get Johansson back into the fold.
Unless Johansson is going to become a bona ride top-6 forward capable of regularly scoring 20 goals per season and playing on one of the top two lines, that’s probably a luxury the Bruins are not going to be able to afford given their current cap situation. It was a nice run while it lasted for Johansson and the Bruins, but it may not be a workable relationship moving forward unless the Swedish forward is willing to take a lot less than market value when things get going ahead of the July 1 open of the NHL’s free agent funny season.
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