January 09, 2011
Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson(notes) inked a seven-year, $30.5-million to avoid restricted free agency next summer. Wow, the guy has overcome a lot to get here; mostly having played at Michigan.
It's a cap hit of $4.3 million annually; according to Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider, "Johnson will make $3.5 million in each of the first three years, starting next season, and then $5 million per year in each of the final four seasons."
Hammond chatted with Kings GM Dean Lombardi for one of those awesome "Dean-o Reveals All" discussions that have made Hammond's blog must-read before and after he became embedded with the Kings.
Lombardi said the free-agent defenseman contracts for Zbynek Michalek(notes) (5 years, $20 million) and Paul Martin(notes) (5 years, $25 million) for the Pittsburgh Penguins were a gauge for Johnson surrendering years of unrestricted free agency.
This passage was revelatory regarding Lombardi's philosophy as GM in giving Johnson the contract he did:
"That's where you have to make a reasonable assumption that this player is going to continue to progress. If he does, you're sitting there with a contract and you can fit in other guys. The only other way you can do it, as we've seen, is to put out those 20-year deals with bogus years. There are teams out there that have done it, which means they have a competitive advantage. The only way to beat that is to do it early, and keep that AAV down. That's the second part. Number one is the commitment.
"Number two is the development. In Jack's case, I don't have any doubt that he's not going to get complacent on us. That's always your fear, when you step up for a young player, that he's going to go, `Well, I've got it made,' and stop trying to be the best he can. I have the utmost confidence, in terms of Jack, that this is not going to happen. If anything, it's going to make him more confident, and drive harder. That's the other thing that allows you to step up."
"Jack was committed for seven or eight years, and never wavered from that. It was, ‘OK, let's get this done, put it in the bank and go do the other one [Doughty].' So we've got one long-term deal in, and if we have to do the other one short-term, we've still got the free-agent rights and we can try again later. But it's nice to have one in the bank."
And to have this blessing of riches on the blue line.