When Michal Neuvirth bolted for the Czech League earlier this week, the Capitals were left without a goalie for their daily practice sessions at Kettler Capitals Iceplex.
So Brooks Laich picked up the phone and called former teammate and former Penguins netminder Brent Johnson, who happens to live just a few blocks away from the Arlington practice facility.
They need a goalie and Im happy to oblige, Johnson said. I come out and face some good shooters and help them out in the process.
Johnson, 35, played 91 games for the Capitals from 2005 to 2009, going 32-39-12 during that time. He met his future wife, Erica, during that time and since her family lived in Burke, Va., the couple bought a home in Arlington in 2007.
Johnson served as a backup to Olie Kolzig and Jose Theodore, and when Semyon Varlamov emerged as the Caps starter in 2008-09, Johnson was not re-signed by the Caps and agreed to a contract with the Penguins.
In three years as a backup to Marc-Andre Fleury, Johnson went 62-29-18 with the Penguins but was not re-signed following last season. Now an unrestricted free agent, Johnson said hes hoping the NHL lockout does not signal the end of his playing career.
Im up in the air, he said. Well see what happens if and when everything starts up.
Yeah, Im concerned, but at my age you start looking at the future and what youre going to do next. Lockout or not, I still would have been in the same spot.
Johnson did not play during the NHLs last work stoppage in 2004-05. He said he believes that while the players accepted a salary cap in the last CBA they also helped pave the way for a sizable growth in player salaries. Since introduced in 2005-06, the NHLs salary cap has risen from 39 million to 70.2 million.
From the players standpoint, we sat out a whole year and ultimately gave up a years salary, Johnson said. In any type of business you try to help out the guys coming behind you and I think we led them on a nice path.