Marcus Johansson has finally signed and no, he is not coming back to Washington. Despite some reported interest from the team early in the offseason, the price tag was always expected to be too high to make a return to the Capitals. On Saturday, that proved true.
Johansson signed a two-year, $9 million deal with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday in a deal that will give him a cap hit of $4.5 million per year.
We have signed forward Marcus Johansson to a two-year contract with an AAV of $4.5 million. pic.twitter.com/l4WcIEyb1j
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) July 6, 2019
After their first-round exit, general manager Brian MacLellan had plenty of time to consider what offseason adjustments the team needed to make in order to compete for the Stanley Cup again in 2019-20.
As the playoffs wore on, Johansson continued to impress with his key contributions for the Boston Bruins. In all, he scored four goals and seven assists in 22 games as the Bruins fell just one win short of the Stanley Cup.
With offensive depth being the most glaring need for Washington, a reunion with Johansson seemed to make a lot of sense...until you considered his price tag.
As he was excelling on the game's biggest stage, it was expected that Johansson would be able to cash-in on his next deal. Though the length of the deal is not all that high at two years, the cap hit is.
Had the Caps signed Johansson to the same deal at $4.5 million per year, that would have given Johansson the fifth-highest cap hit among Caps' forwards, a steep price for a player who would have been penciled in for a third-line role.
Adding him also would have forced the entire house of cards that is the Caps' salary to come crashing down.
The Caps signed free agents Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway and Brendan Leipisic. The total combined cap hit of those three players next season is $4.95 million. For just $450,000 more than the cost of Johansson, the Caps filled out the rest of their roster and improved the team's penalty kill and team defense.
Signing Johansson would not have left the team with that kind of flexibility and it is hard to imagine how the team's bottom six would have ended up better overall by committing so much of its limited cap space to one player.
Once you start to realize how desperately the Caps needed to upgrade their overall team defense, making several small moves to address that makes a lot more sense than the one bigger-name addition.
Signing with Buffalo is also a move that makes more sense for Johansson as well. He will almost certainly get a top-six role with the Sabres as opposed to a third-line role in Washington. That will better allow him to parlay this deal into a bigger deal in two years.
Because of that, MacLellan's recent tactic of overpaying in term length in order to keep cap hits low would likely not have interested Johansson who clearly has his sights set on that next big contract.
At $4.5 million per year, that's just not a move that would have made sense for Washington.
MORE CAPITALS NEWS
Bye, Brett: Connolly signs with Florida Panthers
Offseason tracker: Recapping all the moves
Power ranks: NHL offseason edition