Here we are, on the tipping point between July and August, and Capitals top-line left wing Marcus Johansson is still without a contract.
How do you say “hardball” in Swedish?
If the Caps were happy with Johansson’s salary request – it’s hard to call it a demand when you have no arbitration leverage – they’d have him locked up by now.
The fact they don’t tells you he’s probably asking for at least $2.5 million. The Caps have the salary space to accommodate Johansson – they’re currently $5.66 million under the cap with 20 players under contract – but apparently they are hesitant to pay him top-line money.
The reason – and this is not unreasonable by the way – is because Johansson has not yet proven himself as a reliable, point-producing forward who can deliver 25 goals and 50-60 points.
There is a very real possibility Johansson is poised for a breakout season – his point totals have been on a steady climb since he entered the NHL – but the Caps simply aren’t willing to pay for it until they see it.
In all likelihood, the Caps would like to give Johansson a healthy raise on the $900,000 he earned last season. But after the Rangers re-signed Carl Hagelin to a two-year, $4.5 million extension, the bar was raised.
In 112 career games with the Rangers, Hagelin, 24, has 24 goals and 38 assists for 62 points. In 183 games for the Caps, Johansson has 33 goals and 62 assists for 95 points.
That means Johansson is probably looking for a home run contract worth between $2.5 million and $3 million a season.
The Caps, however, might want a bridge contract, one that carries the incentive that one big season next season will be rewarded with a hefty raise next summer.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.