Johansson fills multiple holes for the Sabres

July 06, 2019 - 12:57 pm

The Sabres did next to nothing in the first week of free agency. A few signings of players that most likely will be in Rochester. On the sixth day of free agency, the Sabres made their big signing the offseason.

Signing Johansson to just a 2-year deal worth $4.5M per year is great value for the Sabres, in a free agent market that normally sees players overpaid. The value is good and the player is good. Johansson fills multiple roles that the Sabres need.

Before talking about where Johansson fits in with line combinations five on five, there's one role he will almost surely fill. Last season Evan Rodrigues was the player on the Sabres second powerplay that carried the puck into the zone. He was okay at it, but not great.

Meanwhile, Johansson quarterbacked the Bruins second powerplay, and is one of the most underappreciated zone entry players in the league.

Johansson is a left shot who plays the half wall with the man advantage. It might be tempting to put him on the first unit with Eichel, Reinhart, and Dahlin. To me, Victor Olofsson fits that spot better with his shot. Eichel & Dahlin should be the zone entry men on the first unit, with Johansson doing it on the second unit.

Now for five on five. What makes Johansson so attractive as a player is his versatility. He can play and has played all three forward positions, including center. Without a big trade to bring in a second line center, Johansson might be the Sabres best option. Last season Sabres centers Casey Mittelstadt, Johan Larsson, and Vladimir Sobotka, combined for 52 points in 219 games played. In 80 games, including playoffs, Johansson had 41 points.

Johansson could be a bridge center for Mittelstadt. If Mittelstadt isn't ready at any point in his second year to be a top six centerman, Johansson can suffice. If Mittelstadt takes a big step forward and does look ready, Johansson can slide the the wing on the second line, or play third line center. There are plenty of options with him.

When healthy, Johansson is a 40-50 point player. The biggest worry with the signing is that he isn't always healthy. In the last two seasons he's missed a total of 78 games due to injury. Many of those were due to two concussions.

This isn't Kyle Okposo or Matt Moulson 2.0. The Sabres are not taking much risk in this Johansson deal, given it's only for two years. It's exactly the type of move the Sabres needed and they got it done.

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