In anticipation of the Seattle Kraken’s inaugural season, we at The Hockey Writers will be doing a deep dive on each player projected to be on the opening night roster. This installment of the series focuses on Marcus Johansson, who the Kraken signed in free agency.
2020-21 Team: Minnesota Wild
2020-21 Season: 36 Games Played, 6 Goals, 8 Assists, 14 Points
Type of Acquisition: Free Agency
Kraken general manager Ron Francis continued his trend of acquiring versatile forwards when he inked Johansson to a one-year, $1.5 million deal on Aug. 6, 2021. The left-shooting Swede, capable of playing center or on the wing, just finished his 11th season in the NHL, suiting up for the Minnesota Wild in 2020-21 after being dealt from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Eric Staal last offseason. Johansson played the first seven years of his career with the Washington Capitals, but has since played on four teams (New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Sabres, and Wild) over the last four seasons. Now on his fifth team in as many years, he looks to secure a future in Seattle with the expansion Kraken.
The Kraken Offer Fresh Start for Veteran Johansson
Johansson only managed to play 36 regular season games for the Wild last season, as he faced multiple upper-body injuries and spent some time in COVID-19 protocols. His time in Minnesota ended with a broken arm in Game 3 of the Wild’s first-round series against the Vegas Golden Knights. Despite his struggles to stay healthy, he averaged 0.39 points per game and ranked eighth on his team with a shooting percentage (S%) of 13. The season prior, he tallied 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 60 games with the Sabres, a 0.50 points per game average.
The 30-year-old has spent time playing both center and winger in the NHL, which will come in handy especially if the Kraken run into injury issues during their inaugural season. Seattle could be the perfect landing spot for Johansson, as he continues his search for the first place to call long-term home since Washington. Being a versatile forward will certainly help his chances and give him ample opportunity to find a suitable role to establish himself in with the Kraken.
Capable of putting the puck in the net, as well as moving it to other players who can, he has totaled 378 points (135 goals, 243 assists) in 684 NHL games thus far. After moving franchise-to-franchise for the last few years, Seattle may be the fresh start he has been looking for. If he stays healthy and provides consistent production for the Kraken this year, there is a good chance his one-year contract gets extended at the end of the season.
Johansson Adds Experience and Leadership to Kraken Locker Room
Johansson is one of five players with experience as an NHL captain or alternate captain set to join the Kraken for their inaugural season. He formerly served as an alternate captain for one year each with the Devils and Sabres. His 11 years in the NHL are no small feat, and he also has 97 games of playoff experience, not to mention a trip to the Stanley Cup Final with the Bruins in 2019. In fact, he has played in the postseason in nine of his 11 years in the league. Adding that kind of leadership and experience to any locker room has major upside, especially for an brand-new organization primarily constructed of young players.
This will be a unique opportunity for Johansson, as he’ll enter a locker room full of many players who have never played with each other before. It’s a fresh slate for everyone donning the Kraken uniform this season. Leadership is necessary for team success, and Seattle is about to find out who its first leaders in franchise history are. There is a good chance he will be part of that group. If all goes to plan, expect him to be a major contributor both on the ice and in the locker room this season as he looks to get his career back on track with the NHL’s newest franchise.
Tom Pepper hosts The Hockey Writers Podcast on iHeartRadio and wherever you listen to podcasts, every weekday (Monday to Friday). He also writes the “NHL Talk” and “NHL Sound Bites” columns. He is a diehard Buffalo Sabres fan in Toronto, frequently driving the Queen Elizabeth Way to cheer on his team at KeyBank Center.