Marcus Johansson

Bruins miss out on retaining Marcus Johansson, who signs with Buffalo Sabres

Bruins miss out on retaining Marcus Johansson, who signs with Buffalo Sabres

The Bruins don’t have much salary cap space for anything beyond their restricted free agents at this point, so it wasn’t a big shock that they weren’t able to retain the services of third-line winger Marcus Johansson.

The Swedish winger signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday morning and will stick around in the Atlantic Division for the next couple of years with an up-and-coming team in Buffalo. The $4.5 million cap hit was a little less than the $5 million annual salary that Johansson, who turns 29 in October, was seeking in unrestricted free agency, and may explain the hold up for Johansson not signing until about a week after the opening of free agency.

Johansson is coming off 13 goals and 30 points in 58 games for the Devils and the Bruins in a season where he missed significant time due to injuries, but he had a strong playoff with four goals and 11 points in 22 games as one of Boston’s more effective forwards.

Given that the Bruins have a little more than $10 million in cap space with Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen still to sign, they didn’t have the luxury of signing a third-line winger to a deal paying him $4.5 million per season. The departure of Johansson leaves openings at second- and third-line right wing, however, after David Pastrnak’s role as the right winger on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

David Backes, 35, could fill one of those spots and is certainly being paid like a top-nine winger with his $6 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons, but the Bruins sounded as if they envisioned as a fourth-liner should he back next year.

The real question here is whether the Bruins should have done something extreme such as renounced their rights to Heinen, who filed for arbitration Friday, or use a top draft pick as a sweetener to trade Backes as the Maple Leafs did with Patrick Marleau, in order to free up space for Johansson. The feeling with this humble hockey writer is that there’s too much risk and too much money being paid out to a third-line winger a few years removed from his best offensive seasons and with concussion issues on top of it.

The Bruins have a number of young candidates to fill in as third-line wingers at the start of next season and if they can’t cut it, then it’s up to Don Sweeney to find the next Johansson-type at the 2020 trade deadline after things worked out well with Johansson and Charlie Coyle in trades this past spring. Don’t expect Bruins fans to be quiet about it, though, if Johansson ends up stinging the Black and Gold when Boston and Buffalo meet multiple times in their divisional showdowns. 

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Report: Marcus Johansson drawing interest from 10-plus teams in free agency

Report: Marcus Johansson drawing interest from 10-plus teams in free agency

If the Bruins hope to bring back Marcus Johansson, they'll have some competition.

There are more than 10 teams interested in the 28-year-old forward's services, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.

The Bruins reportedly remain in the mix for Johansson, but general manager Don Sweeney's first order of business will be figuring out contracts for restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen.

Johansson only increased his value during the postseason, tallying four goals and seven assists through 22 games and playing an integral role in getting the Bruins all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

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Report: Bruins still in the mix for Marcus Johansson, though several teams have expressed interest

Report: Bruins still in the mix for Marcus Johansson, though several teams have expressed interest

As the Bruins shape their roster for another run towards the Stanley Cup following a crushing defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, they seem to be interested in bringing back forward Marcus Johansson. 

According to David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period, Boston remains in the mix to sign Marcus Johansson, but he also notes multiple teams have expressed interest in the forward. 

Johansson was acquired by the Bruins at the trade deadline from the Devils and only played in 10 regular season games, but he played great in the playoffs and was considered one of the Bruins' best forwards. He scored four goals and finished with 22 points in 22 postseason games, proving the B's right for swinging a trade for him midseason. 

The Bruins figure to have $12 million in cap space while Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo represent the team's key free agents. There's a scenario where the Bruins could retain all four of them, but it grows increasingly unlikely if another team offers Johansson a considerable contract. 

We'll see how it plays out over the next few weeks, but while it doesn't look great for the Bruins to keep Johansson, they at least appear to be open to the possibility. 

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