Marcus Johansson was ready for arbitration, but unlike last year he was able to avoid it. Just before his 9 a.m. hearing on Wednesday morning, he came to an agreement with the Caps on a three-year deal worth $13.75 million.
"You don't want to go to arbitration," Johansson said in a conference call with the media. "No one does. It's a last resort."
Yet, Johansson was just minutes away from his second arbitration hearing in as many years.
Make no mistake, this was going to arbitration. This was not a situation in which both sides were confident a deal would get done and were waiting talking things over in Washington. Johansson was in Toronto for the hearing as no real progress had been made between the two sides until Wednesday morning.
"Started getting calls to each other this morning," Johansson said. "I think both parties were kind of hoping that we could figure it out before we head into the meeting and I think both parties are really happy that we did. It was a little tight schedule before the meeting, but I'm really happy that we worked it out."
The issue with Johansson is that he is a player with top-six skill who could very well end up playing on the third line this season. With Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie, Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Justin Williams in tow, not to mention Jakub Vrana waiting in Hershey for his shot at the NHL, the Caps have a lot of skill and limited cap space. Despite registering more than 40 points in each of the past three seasons, someone is going to move to the third line and it just may be Johansson. Because of that, he's just not worth as much to the Caps as he would to several other teams that do not boast the same kind of talent on the roster.
For his part, Johansson said he understands the team's point of view.
"To be able to keep the team, it's hard," Johansson said. "It's hard for everyone. ... There's obviously the cap in the NHL and you have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to the agreement that made both parties happy."
By coming to a deal, the Caps avoided more than just a hearing and the uncertainty that comes with arbitration. They also avoided the acrimony that can come with actively arguing why a player is not worth the money he is asking for. Going through the process last year did not sour Johansson on the team, but there was no guarantee a second go-around would leave him as happy with his current employer.
Now with a three-year deal in hand, Johansson is excited about the prospect of remaining in Washington.
"I love it in Washington, my whole family does," Johansson said. "We're really happy to be able to stay there. I don't have any complaints about being in Washington."
MORE CAPITALS: HOW MUCH FAITH DO FANS HAVE IN THE CAPS?