It took arbitration to get there, but Marcus Johansson is finally under contract with the Caps for next season. As with every contract, the question leading up to a player's re-signing is always how much? Now it's time to answer the second pivotal question: is it too high or too low?
Johansson posted career-high numbers last season in goals (20), points (47) and, most importantly, shots (138). At 25, there is still room for improvement assuming he continues to commit to shooting the puck.
The Caps, however, appear to have their top six forward settled meaning Johansson will most likely see the bulk of his playing time next season on the third line. You can see why this ultimately ended up in from of an arbitrator.
On Friday, the arbitrator awarded Johansson a one-year deal worth $3.75 million in between the $3 million and the $4.75 million both sides argued in Wednesday's hearing. To determine if this is a good deal for the Caps, let's compare Johansson's cap hit with a few players with similar stats.
Below is a list of forwards in order of their approximate cap-hit for the 2015-16 season along with their current age and points from last season (NOTE: all contract numbers from generalfanager.com, all stats from NHL.com):
Gustav Nyquist- 25 years old, (27 G, 27 A) Cap hit: $4.75 million
Tyler Ennis- 25 years old, (20 G, 26 A) Cap hit: $4.6 million
Craig Smith- 25 years old, (23 G, 21 A) Cap hit: $4.25 million
Nazem Kadri- 24 years old, (18 G, 21 A) Cap hit: $4.1 million
Adam Henrique- 25 years old, (16 G, 27 A) Cap hit: $4.0 million
Wayne SImmonds- 26 years old, (28 G, 22 A) Cap hit: $3.975 million
Colin Wilson- 25 years old, (20 G, 22 A) Cap hit: $3.938 million
Anders Lee- 25 years old, (25 G, 16 A) Cap hit: $3.75 million
Marcus Johansson- 25 years old, (20 G, 27 A) Cap hit: $3.75 million
Brandon Sutter- 26 years old (21 G, 12 A) Cap hit: $3.3 million
From this list, you can see Johansson's deal is on the lower end for players his age with similar production. Considering that most of these players will be seeing time on their respective team's top two lines, this is exactly what the Caps wanted to accomplish.
This speaks to the Caps' depth at forward, just as Mike Green playing on the third pairing last season spoke to their defensive depth. The reason Green was not re-signed is because $6 million per year was too expensive for a third-pair defenseman. The Caps avoided a similar situation here with Johansson as he was awarded a comparatively low salary.
A one-year deal also will not bring Johansson out of restricted free agent status next season. While neither side likely wants to see another drawn out contract negotiation next year, it does give the team options.
It is essentially another 'prove it' deal for Johansson. If he continues to produce and shows he is worth more than the $3.75 million, that's ultimately a good problem for the Caps to have.
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