Last season, the hockey world was blindsided when the New Jersey Devils acquired F Taylor Hall for D Adam Larsson straight up. It was a blockbuster trade that the Devils had won. This season, the player in question in the trade is Marcus Johansson, and once again, the Devils have won.
The Washington Capitals were strapped for salary cap room. After another speculator regular season, their hunt for the Cup ended with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round. Again.
When it came time to see who would stay and who would go, the Caps made a decision. They re-signed Evgeny Kuznetsov and traded Marcus Johansson.
The New Jersey Devils, who still have over $20 million in cap room, said please, yes, and thank you.
Johansson plays on the left wing, despite being a natural center. He can also play on the other wing, making him a utility forward. It’s a place that the Devils are in need of players. Along with Taylor Hall and Miles Wood, the Devils almost have their entire left wing ready to go. He is a player that could provide 45 points per season and is an excellent playmaker.
And the cost of bringing Marcus Johansson to New Jersey? Two draft picks, that weren’t even the Devils, to begin with.
The Devils gave Washington a second round and third round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. The second rounder previously belonged to the Florida Panthers. The third rounder was a pick formerly belonging to the Toronto Maple Leafs. And New Jersey still has seven picks in the 2018 draft as well, so they’re no worse for wear in terms of picks. And Johansson has two years left on his current deal, meaning if year one doesn’t go as planned, the Devils could trade him. Or, hopefully, if things go well he can be re-signed.
This is the first “big splash” the Devils has made this offseason. The rumors surrounding Ilya Kovalchuk‘s “pending” return to the NHL change every day and the biggest name the team had signed so far was Brian Boyle, another smart move by Shero and Co. Patience is proving to be a virtue for fans and the organization as a whole.
Johansson is coming off of his best season, with a career-high in goals, 24, his second highest assists total, 34, and a career high in points, with 58. It wouldn’t be crazy to think that he will be on the Devils top line. Had he been on the team last season, he would have been the best player on the team stats wise.
— New Jersey Devils (@NJDevils) July 3, 2017
If you look at what the team was when Ray Shero was brought into the fold, to what it is now, it’s astounding. Just look at the center position. It used to be made up of Patrik Elias, Jacob Josefson, Scott Gomez, and Travis Zajac. Today, you have Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier, Brian Boyle and Travis Zajac. Zajac is the only piece left, while it’s debatable whether he should still be. You can even toss in Johansson as he can play either position.
Scoring has always been an area the Devils have been needing help in. Johansson is a fantastic playmaker, who could help the Devils put lots of pucks in the back of the net. He also possesses an underrated shot, which is capable of scoring 25 times in a single season.
But all in all the Devils shouldn’t be done signing free agents despite the thinning pool of players. With internet darling and overall everyone’s favorite player over 40 still looking for a team, why not bring back Jaromir Jagr? It’s not like the team is going to doing anything of meaning this season. Unless they can somehow pull this off, in reality. The focus now should be on defense and how to solidify the core. As with their past championship team, the Devils must build from the goal out. And already having Cory Schneider in goal, they can focus on moving forward.
Devils fan should be happy with the direction they are heading in. The next question, besides on which night will Patrik Elias’ jersey take its rightful place in the rafters of the Prudential Center, is who will be signed next?
While the Devils may not be a lock in for the draft lottery anymore, they still aren’t a team that could be contending for a deep playoff run. Marcus Johansson is a very good step in the right direction. And it’s been down the path that the Devils have been heading down since last season.