Two days ago Capitals coach Adam Oates said the last thing he wanted heading into training camp was the distraction of a contract dispute between Marcus Johansson and general manager George McPhee.
That distraction was swept under the carpet on Saturday when Johansson, 22, agreed to a two-year, $4 million contract with the club.
“Obviously, we’re all happy for him,” Caps goaltender Braden Holtby said. “It’s a hard situation to be in as a player but sometimes that happens. It’s great knowing he’s coming back. He’s a huge part of our hockey team. He’s probably the most relieved of everyone that it’s over with and we’re happy to have him.”
Defenseman Steve Oleksy agreed.
“It’s big,” he said. “Come Wednesday everybody’s ready to go. You’re not siting here wondering who’s going to be coming and who’s not You’re focused on the task at hand.”
With Johansson’s signing the Caps are now just $665,705 under the NHL’s salary cap, ranking them seventh in the NHL with a payroll of $63.63 million. [Six other teams are currently above the salary cap].
“It’s definitely something guys appreciate,” Oleksy said “You want to be in a situation where you’re trying to put the best team on the ice as possible.
“Here there are some big-name guys, but at the end of the day it’s the play on the ice that matters. We’re focused on the play, not on the money or what kind of room we have under the cap.”
Johansson will be trying to build off a strong finish last season, when he had six goals and 16 assists in his final 21 games playing left wing on a line with center Nicklas Backstrom and right wing Alex Ovechkin.
“I think a lot of guys were hoping he would end up back here,” Oleksy said. “Last year we took a huge leap in the right direction and he was a big part of that on and off the ice. I think he was a good fit for that line. Playing with Backy, another Swede, they immediately had a connection.”