>The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-signed forward Adam Johnson to a one-year, two-way contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.
>The deal runs through the 2019-20 campaign and has an average annual value of $700,000 at the NHL level.
>”Adam has definitely put the work in. He’s a great skater, and has worked extremely hard to get to another level of strength and conditioning, which certainly helped him in his second pro season,” said assistant general manager Bill Guerin. “I think he proved not only to us but also to himself that he can play in the National Hockey League.”
$700,000 is league minimum wage for next season, and the two-way aspect means Johnson will earn a fraction of that if assigned to the AHL after training camp.
Johnson, 25, should be on the bubble of the roster - and perhaps even a bit better than that depending on the still-expected trade that could perhaps see a forward traded out of Pittsburgh to alleviate the salary cap crunch. The Pens still have to sign Teddy Blueger, Zach-Aston Reese and most notably Marcus Pettersson and only have about $2 million under the cap. Something is going to have to give there, since Pettersson will probably take all of that room, and possible more if Pittsburgh signs him for a longer term.
Johnson figures to be in a fight for a 12th or 13th spot on the NHL roster, and could be the team’s top wing call-up if he doesn’t make the NHL squad. How he plays in camp, especially compared to players like Sam Lafferty and European free agent signing Oula Palve will be interesting to watch. That could be three forwards fighting for one roster spot (or, at worst the opportunity to impress team coaches and management for mid-season call-ups).
One other unavoidable topic here is Brandon Tanev. The Pens’ big free agent signing is in the same mold here as a lower line grinding winger. If you can’t develop players, you have to find and sign them to unfavorable terms. It’s worth wondering on a summer day that if the team had more faith in young forwards like Lafferty and Johnson if they would even feel the need to go out and invest a large contract in a similar (but more established) type of player in Tanev.
The presence of Tanev may well be the roadblock that forces Adam Johnson back to Wilkes-Barre when camp breaks. That’s not necessarily and indictment of Tanev who is more physical and better known on the P.K. and can be relied on. But will it be worth the $2.8 million in salary difference between Tanev and Johnson? That will be another interesting minor season subplot to follow along with.