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Jack Johnson to be next salary cap casualty?

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A blessing in disguise!

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The holiday was yesterday, but for Pittsburgh Penguins’ fans the real celebration might still be yet to come this summer. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period was on 93.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoon talking about the Pens, and one of the topics mentioned was the potential trade of Jack Johnson.

Pagnotta mentioned how “if” Pittsburgh needs to clear up some salary space (which sounds more like a “when” then an if, really) that Johnson will probably be the one to go, and the team may have given Johnson’s camp a bit of a heads up and early notice that a trade could be in the works.

Pagnotta put at “50/50” chance on Johnson returning to the Pens or getting traded.

As Pagnotta said, a player like Johnson isn’t a priority around the league right now as teams are more focused on free agents they could add. Pagnotta specifically mentioned Anaheim, Montreal, and Los Angeles as three teams that could circle back to a player like Johnson if they don’t fulfill needs elsewhere.

And, sure enough, not long after this interview, Montreal went out and signed not-very-good defenseman Ben Chariot to a three-year, $3.5 million contract. As in, per year.

So unfortunately, we can probably scratch Montreal off the list, as they’ve met their need to add a bad defender for a premium.

(Which, as an aside, I always felt the media built-in excuse of “it’ll be tough to trade Jack Johnson with his contract” when teams are turning around and handing out similarly bad contracts all the time to other not-very-good defensemen.)

This is a good point to go back to May and check out the teams we ran down that might be interested in adding a player like this. We ID’d Anaheim, Montreal, and Vancouver as the three teams that might make the most sense. With Montreal officially off that list (and Vancouver too since they signed Tyler Myers for five years, $6 million, re-signed Alex Edler, and added Jordie Benn to a very responsible two years and $2 million since the time of the last article), that leaves teams like Anaheim and Los Angeles as potential suitors.

The Penguins probably aren’t in a great spot if they’re waiting and watching teams like Montreal and Vancouver sign up other players for free, so we’ll see if they’ll be able to be proactive or simply just have to wait for the free agent frenzy dust to settle in order to know where the interest will be.

Trading Johnson though, especially for cheap, would remove a body from a blue line. The Penguins have Brian Dumoulin, presumably Marcus Pettersson after the re-sign him, and Juuso Riikola still as left-side guys. That may or may not be enough depth to be comfortable with, but the alternative to play Johnson, their worst performing defensman last year, isn’t exactly ideal either.

And surely, though the Penguins are outwardly confident in their defensemen, there’s no way that with so much desire for change that they could bring back the same exact defense from Games 2-4 that failed under the New York Islanders’ forecheck and couldn’t move the puck well enough, right?

Just as the Pens pulled a rabbit out of their hat later in the summer (July 28, 2015 to be exact) to trade Brandon Sutter for an upgrade in Nick Bonino, the team will probably need to look to do the same with Jack Johnson this year. If they can, it should help propel the team into next season.