General Manager Ray Shero made one of the first deals to be announced on the day of the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. Shero made one of the many to be announced after the 3 PM deadline. Forward Marcus Johansson was rumored to be involved in deals for the past week or so and it was finally done right by the deadline itself. As announced by the team, the New Jersey Devils sent Johansson to the Boston Bruins for their 2019 second round pick and a 2020 fourth round pick. The Devils will retain 40% of Johansson’s salary.
Before going into the deal itself, I do not think it is a big deal that the Devils retained some salary. The Devils have a rich owner and so retaining $1.833 million as per CapFriendly is just the cost of doing business. It will not be an issue going forward in what should be more expensive 2019 offseason.
On the one hand, I would be lying if I said I was not a little disappointed by this return. After seeing Brian Boyle traded for a second round pick and Ben Lovejoy traded for a third round pick and a NHL player, I was expecting more for a second-line caliber forward who is now finally healthy, recently productive, and can play all three forward positions. Technically, it is a bit more than those deals since the Devils picked up a fourth round pick in 2020 but a fourth round pick is not really worth much no matter how early it is. I would have been really happy if Johansson would brought back a first round pick, conditional or otherwise. Or even perhaps a second and third rounder in 2019 - similar to what Shero spent to bring Johansson to New Jersey two Summers ago.
On the other hand, I understand why the Devils received what they did. While Johansson is still relatively young, he is coming off a rough time as a Devil. He suffered multiple injuries, including two concussions, that should concern anyone who wants to retain Johansson for a long time. While his production since the All-Star Weekend was very good, it seems like a hot streak more so than a sign that he is producing for real. And while he would fit along side skilled players, he was not much of a play driver in this season (I’m throwing out his severely shortened by injury last season) given his 47.75 CF% and -0.27% relative CF%, it suggests he’s somewhat of a complementary player. Nothing wrong with that on its own but it does undercut some of his value. Look at this way: Johansson is two years older, added to his injury history, and provided a pretty-OK amount of production in his time with New Jersey. I can understand why he is worth a little less than he was worth, two years ago. While the third rounder will have to wait a year, the Devils now have three second rounders, which should give Shero some options around the 2019 NHL Draft later this June.
Most of all, according to Darren Dreger, Shero was looking for a second round pick for Johansson. He got one and a little more. He achieved his goal. And the pick is for this year. Corey Masisak stated on Twitter this evening that Shero received offers for Johansson from teams that did not have a 2019 second round draft pick. He listed the teams without a second rounder this year, so you can make your guesses as to who it was. All the same, a pick that can be used this year is generally more valuable than a pick two (or four) years away if only because you also have to wait for the player to develop in addition to waiting for the pick to actually take place. I can appreciate that Shero was able to get a 2019 second rounder instead of one down the line.
I will point out that I do feel a bit bad for Johansson. Yes, he will get to play in the postseason this season unless Boston has the most spectacular run of failure in the next month. However, he is now teammates with Brad Marchand. Marchand was the reason for one of his two concussions as a Devil and it was definitely not an accident. Near the end of what would be a Boston win on January 23, 2018, Marchand sought out, jumped, and and blind-sided Johansson with an elbow to the head. It was one of the worst hits I’ve seen in recent memory. Johansson had plenty to say about it about two months afterward. As reported by Joe Haggerty at NBC Sports Boston:
“It was stupid. There’s nothing else to say about it. There was no point in doing that,” said Johansson, who has played in just 29 games this season while dealing with two different concussion injuries, to reporters in New Jersey. “There was no hockey play there whatsoever. I think it’s sad to see that there are still guys out there that are trying to hurt other guys. I think there’s nothing else to say about it. It’s sad, it’s stupid.
“I hope it doesn’t come to him ending someone else’s career before it’s enough. That’s not why we play the game. I think there are always situations where you try and hit someone and you try to make a hockey play, and things can go wrong. Then there are plays like this, [a play] that has nothing to do with hockey. So it’s sad to see, and I guess I’m unfortunate to be on the receiving end of that.”
I wouldn’t forget such a comment if I were Marchand. And I wouldn’t forget a reckless and unnecessary elbow to the dome if I were Johansson. I’m sure there will be some initial awkwardness when Johansson joins the B’s. But only initial awkwardness. They are professionals and this NBC Sports Boston article by Nick Goss suggests that Johansson has moved past it. I still think it will take some work to bury the hatchet, but that will be done behind the scenes.
It will not be long to see how Johansson gets along with Boston as the Devils will play them this Saturday. As excited as I was when Shero brought Johansson into the fold, it was definitely something that did not work out all that well in New Jersey even considering issues out of the control of the team and the player. I would not expect him to come back to New Jersey. According to Corey Masisak on Twitter, a contract extension was not even a possibility for Johansson. That does not bode well for any return, but we shall see on July 1.
This was the last deal the Devils made today. I’ll have a summary of all of the 2019 deals up a little later this evening. In the meantime, what’s your take on the Johansson trade? Are you pleased with the return? Do you think Shero could have received more for Johansson or should have demanded more than just a second rounder? Would you have even traded Johansson if this was the return - knowing that there would be no contract extension? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Johansson, his time with New Jersey, and this trade in the comments. Thank you for reading.