The Buffalo Sabres have been rather quiet since the beginning of free agency, making only a few minor additions, but GM Jason Botterill made his biggest splash of the summer Saturday morning, signing winger Marcus Johansson to a two-year, $9-million contract, with an AAV of $4.5 million.
Johansson has two 20-goal seasons under his belt and his 30-point campaign last season, which he split between the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins, was more impressive than meets the eye given he missed considerable time with a lung contusion, skating in only 58 games during the 2018-19 campaign. It took him time to get back to full speed and he struggled at times with Boston near the end of the regular season, but he took his game to another level in the playoffs. His 11 points in 22 games were the best of his post-season career as the Bruins fell one win short of hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Johansson will instantly step into the top six in Buffalo, where he’ll be asked to provide scoring. An impressive possession player, Johansson has always been a solid playmaker – he has two 30-plus assist campaigns to his credit – but he has missed a lot of time over the past few seasons, likely the reason the Sabres went short term instead of inking the 28-year-old to something longer. His last full 82-game campaign, 2016-17, saw Johansson register 58 points, the highest total of his career, and the Sabres are certainly hoping he can be graced with the same good health during his time in Buffalo.
Landing a secondary scorer had to be a priority for the Sabres, who scored 226 goals last season, the second-fewest in the Eastern Conference. Johansson fits the bill. And if he can find chemistry alongside Casey Mittelstadt, for whom Buffalo has second-line center hopes, Johansson will help the Sabres have a top-six that can rely on output from more than Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner.
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