The Toronto Maple Leafs season is over, and the most exciting moves thus far were in the front office. The NHL Entry Draft is on the horizon, and more importantly, re-signing their players. The biggest name is obviously William Nylander, but there’s another Swede emerging. Andreas Johnsson broke onto the Leafs roster in the back half of the season, not that unlike Kasperi Kapanen just a year prior. Again mirroring his Finnish counterpart, Johnsson had a very strong playoffs and secured a roster spot for the following season. Unlike Kapanen however, Johnsson is not under contract for next season.
Maple Leafs have negotiating power
While signing Johnsson to a long-term deal similar to Calle Jarnkrok‘s six-year, $12 million would be nice, there’s no reason for Johnsson to take it. Realistically Johnsson will get a bridge deal so he can prove his worth in the NHL, and his then he will get his first big contract. Since Johnsson has only completed three professional seasons, he is not eligible for salary arbitration. This leaves all the power in Toronto’s hands, as Johnsson cannot go to a third party to decide a contract. Anything over three years would leave Johnsson an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) at the conclusion, so the Leafs would be wise to cap it at three years.
There’s also the risk of going too short, as we briefly saw with Josh Leivo this year. Any player who is 25 years of age or older, who has completed at least three professional seasons, but has not played in more than 80 NHL games becomes a Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agent. A one-year deal would shield Johnsson from that due to his late birthday, however, as we’ve seen with Leivo it’s possible for a good young player to play less than 80 games over multiple years in the NHL.
It’s something to consider, but barring a very serious injury Johnsson should have no trouble amassing the 65 games he requires to maintain RFA status until 2022. Johnsson will surely want a one year deal while the Leafs try to lock him up for three, ultimately settling for two to three years. As the length increases so will the price, but there’s nothing to really suggest Johnsson will get the $2 million that Connor Brown and Zach Hyman did after their strong rookie year.
More likely Johnsson gets something similar to the two-year, $2 million contracts that Yanni Gourde got for playing a similar amount of games, getting a similar amount of points, at a similar age to Johnsson. Another comparable is Brett Connolly, who’s had two bridge deals comparable to what Johnsson will get. If there’s anyone who believes Johnsson is due for a big raise, ask Andreas Athanasiou how hard it is to cash in without truly proving yourself.
In conclusion, Johnsson should ink a two-year deal in the $1-1.25 million range. A three-year deal would be better, but less likely. Three years would be in the $1.5-1.75m range, and pessimistically a one-year deal would range from $850k to $1 million.