The Vancouver Canucks need to add more speed and finesse in their bottom six, and Marcus Johansson is an ideal target in free agency.
With the Vancouver Canucks and top blueliner Alexander Edler unlikely to sign a new deal before he hits free agency, per Rick Dhaliwal of Sportsnet 650, addressing the defence will obviously be the top priority for general manager Jim Benning this offseason.
Even with Edler, the Canucks had one of the league’s most frustrating defensive units in 2018-19. His likely departure adds more urgency for Benning to find somebody that can replace his minutes and work ethic.
Whether or not he finds that person remains to be seen, but the blue line shouldn’t be his only priority in the offseason. Benning should look at upgrading his bottom six, and Boston Bruins pending UFA Marcus Johansson would be the perfect solution here.
Johansson came over in a trade deadline deal and enhanced his free agent value after a remarkable showing in the postseason. He had four goals and 11 points in 22 playoff games, including one game winner.
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It’s highly unlikely that the cap-strapped Bruins will be able to retain Johansson, who could ask for a multi-year deal worth over $4 million annually. And if he does hit the market, the Canucks need to have his agent’s phone number on speed dial.
Though Roussel and Beagle brought in some toughness while eating up key penalty killing minutes, neither of them come with much offensive upside. And certainly, none of them can match Johansson’s strong speed and overall skill set.
Johansson is a two-time 20-goal scorer (he had a career-high 24 two seasons ago), and he’s recorded 40-plus points five times. Those are excellent scoring numbers for a guy that has been much of his career on the third line.
On top of that, Johansson is capable of playing both winger and centre. He can play anywhere in the bottom nine, and the Canucks need a player of his versatility — especially considering they don’t have enough speed in their lineup.
If Benning had no problem giving Roussel and Beagle four-year deals worth $12 million, he should be willing to give Johansson a multi-year pact worth over $4 million annually. This is a guy with 20-goal and 40-50-point potential, and we saw Johansson come through during clutch situations with the Bruins.
Adding one or two more blueliners has to be the top thing on Benning’s to-do list. After that, he needs to find out what the price is for Johansson. If it’s reasonable, the Canucks need to try and add the smooth-skating Swede to their lineup.