Ray Shero pointed out that if the salary cap did not exist, Marcus Johansson would still likely be a member of the Washington Capitals.
But a salary cap does exist in the NHL, and while the ceiling moved up to $75 million for the 2017-18 season, the Capitals were up against it following some of their recent offseason decisions, especially after re-signing Evgeny Kuznetsov to an eight-year, $62.4 million contract on Sunday.
The Capitals, with about $4.65 million available following that signing, needed to clear more space. And so, they made a deal with the Devils, sending Johansson to New Jersey. Going back to Washington: A second-round pick and a third-round pick next year.
Those picks, according to the Capitals, previously belonged to Florida and Toronto, so New Jersey keeps its original selections for those rounds next year.
In Johansson, the Devils get a 26-year-old forward capable of playing both on the wing and center, and one who just posted career highs in goals (24) and points (58). That’s an important addition for New Jersey, which was 28th in the league last year in scoring.
“He really adds to this forward group,” said Shero, the Devils general manager, in a conference call. “That’s what we’re looking to do is get better instantly. We just have to get better and that means more skill, more talent.
“We’re getting there and I think that’s exciting for a guy like Marcus.”
The addition of Taylor Hall last year was a start in the right direction. Defying the odds and getting the No. 1 overall pick, which turned into Nico Hischier, was a lucky development at the lottery, and acquiring a productive, versatile forward from a team against the cap should help in at least starting to turn the Devils’ offensive problems around.
“I think we’re better, more dynamic up front than we have been in a while, obviously,” he said.
They also signed veteran center Brian Boyle yesterday.
“It’s a good day for us and it’s a trade that obviously helps both teams. Washington, with their cap, and then being able to sign a great player like Kuznetsov and certainly a team like ours that’s taken advantage of that in adding a real good young player … in Marcus,” said Shero.
The Devils now have about $20.3 million in cap space, and Shero hasn’t ruled out the possibility of more moves, including with other teams in need of trading away salary to free them up financially. That could mean making an upgrade on defense, as well.
“Just in the last week … I think adding Boyle, Johansson and Nico Hischier — I think it’s an exciting time for the Devils,” said Shero. “We’re open to anything.
“We’ll see where it goes. We have more assets now. The draft picks and cap space are huge assets and we utilized a little bit of both today, but we’re still in good position and would certainly look to get better before the season starts.”
One aspect of the offseason Shero didn’t really have an update for was on Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s been reported that he’s planning a return to the NHL. It’s been reported that he’s talking extension with his KHL team. It’s been reported that the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets are all apparently on his wish list.On the second day of free agency, however, Kovalchuk remains available.
“I’d assume at some point in the next few days, we should have a real good indication of what’s going on or what he’s going to do,” said Shero.
Still, after the events of the last few weeks, Shero had a sense of optimism about the direction of his team.
“We’re in a better position than we were a day ago,” said Shero. “We’re in a better position than we were a week ago.”