While most of today has been about adding a little depth to the organization, the move to add Jack Johnson to the team brings a few more questions to a team that largely seemed to be playing it smart. The recent connection with assistant coach Jacques Martin, who was with Johnson the last two seasons, as well as John Davidson‘s connection to the veteran d-man when he was Columbus, undoubtedly brought him under consideration.
As for the deal itself, the contract is by no means bad, and at 1 year for $1.15M it can be buried or perhaps moved – if as expected it has no restriction on movement and trade. Maybe they can even get an asset for him if the Rangers are in a dealing move come the deadline.
No it’s not the term or money that is at issue, but whether Johnson really provides any more value to the team over the likes of Libor Hajek, Tarno Reunanen or K’Andre Miller. On the topline stats, Johnson was a regular, averaging over 19 minutes a game for Pittsburgh while appearing in 67 games last year. His offensive contribution was fairly minimal, coming in with 3 goals and 8 assists for a total of 11 points, to go with his -1 plus/minus rating.
It was a fairly typical year for him overall statistically, and the Rangers shouldn’t expect him to provide much outside some occasional moments. Overall he was on the ice for 48 goals for and 67 goals against last season. To compare that with a couple of Rangers last season, Tony DeAngelo was on the ice for 95 goals for and 52 goals against, while playing about the same ice time wise. Marc Staal meanwhile was on the ice for 34 goals for and 47 against, while playing 2 minutes left a game.
One final thing, tt’s also worth noting that Pittsburgh used Johnson as one of their top penalty killers. Over the season he averaged 2:12, which tied Kris Letang for the team lead. Pittsburgh finished the regular season tied for 8th overall with an 82.1% effectiveness, versus the Rangers 77.4…good enough for 23rd on the season.
It’s not a completely off the board move, but the expectations should be measured, particularly by the team. Johnson has seen his game tail off as he’s gotten older, and if David Quinn continues to go with the players that earn the time then it will probably mean he’s either playing well, or the other options are worse. Old habits – and memories – die slowly though, and the Rangers fan base is slow to trust. The signing of Jack Johnson on the face of it looks like a low probability of success right now, and that’s what is going to hold the imagination until proven otherwise.