The Kings signed defenseman Jack Johnson to a 7-year, $30.5 million deal on Saturday, continuing their quest to firm up their core for the future. The seven-year, $30.5 million contract will have a cap figure of $4.36 million, the average annual value. Here are a few facts about the deal:
- Johnson is now signed through the 2017-18 season; the next closest King is Anze Kopitar, who is signed through 2016-17.
- Johnson will be 31 at the conclusion of the deal
- Comparable cap hits are Dan Hamhius ($4.5 AAV), Tomas Kaberle ($4.25), and Jon Michael-Liles ($4.2); all are over the age of 28
- Johnson will earn $3.5 million for the first three years and $5 million a year the final four years
- Johnson acted as his own agent when negotiating the deal
The deal itself is an inverse of most deals in the NHL's cap world. While most deals trade future cap pain for savings now, the Kings decided to sign Johnson to a deal whose savings won't be realized until the 4th year of the deal. It's worth it, though, if it means the Kings can lock up a legitimate top-two defenseman up to and through his prime at just a little more than $4 million a season. Johnson is probably worth his cap hit right now (he's on pace to score 60 points this season) and he'll only surpass his cap hit in the future.
For Johnson, the deal provides financial security while allowing him to remain in one place for a great period of time. Johnson has always been a big believer in loyalty; after all, he's a man that still goes back to Michigan University to get his bachelor's degree after leaving the school 2 years in to play pro hockey. Johnson could probably have gotten a little more money if he had signed a series of shorter deals, but those deals might not have been with Los Angeles. Johnson followed the example of Dustin Brown and exchanged more money for security. It's a very mature decision for a 23 year-old.
The Kings now have to turn their attention to their other 2 prime restricted free agents: star defenseman Drew Doughty and grinder Wayne Simmonds. Doughty is the other piece to the Kings' long-term defensive puzzle, a defenseman with elite offensive skills along with shutdown ability in the defensive end. Simmonds is already a great 3rd liner with a frame that projects him to be a very good power forward some day. Both are probably looking at shorter deals while the Kings get a better idea of their ceilings.
The Kings are now set up pretty well in the long-term. Their core is as follows:
- Jack Johnson, top pairing defender: signed through 2018
- Anze Kopitar, first line center: signed through 2017
- Dustin Brown, 1st line winger: signed through 2015
- Matt Greene, bottom pairing defender/ locker room leader: signed through 2015
- Jonathan Quick/Jonathan Bernier, goaltending tandem: signed through 2012
The final two pieces to the puzzle are Doughty and center Brayden Schenn, both of whom are under team control for the next few years. Once Doughty is signed long-term and Schenn establishes himself behind Anze Kopitar, the Kings will be set to make multiple attempts at the Stanley Cup over the next few years. It's exciting and hopefully other players will buy into the plan like Jack Johnson just did.