The Pittsburgh Penguins squandered the brief salary cap space they enjoyed by signing defenseman Jack Johnson to a five year contract
Jack Johnson on his way to Pittsburgh this morning. The deal that has been widely reported — 5 years, $16.25M — will be signed and sealed soon. #CBJ— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) July 1, 2018
Johnson, 31, by most advanced metrics is among the worst defensemen in the league. The Pens have now tied themselves to him deep into his 30’s where his play is sure to decline further still.
There’s no way to sugarcoat it, this is a bad signing on day 1 and one that could haunt the team for years to come. It’s very out of character too, general manager Jim Rutherford hasn’t signed an external free agent longer than for 3 seasons. One of those players was veteran defenseman Matt Hunwick, who struggled through a bad season in Pittsburgh before being traded away. In order to clear Hunwick, the Pens has to add in useful forward Conor Sheary and accept basically no return. Now they’ve gone and squandered that space with an equivalent, if not worse player in Johnson.
Pittsburgh wanted to add a defenseman, which of course isn’t a bad idea at all. But the execution of this plan is baffling. It’s tough to even imagine what a decent argument would be to sign Johnson. Adding five years of term on top of that is above and beyond foolish. Jack Johnson is likely to provide replacement level play, at best, and at a premium price for years to come. At worst he may be in a role playing 20+ minutes a night and actively hurting the team. It’s tough to see anything about this signing as a positive, even on day 1.
This isn’t something where hindsight and time will be needed to know this was a mistake but the Penguins somehow made it anyways. Having Johnson won’t disqualify the Pens from competing- and even though twitter will have a meltdown- the sun will still rise in the east tomorrow morning and we’ll all go on with our lives. But it’s still tough to watch your team make a completely avoidable and self-inflicted mistake and that’s what has happened here. Buckle up, baby.