The Sabres get a versatile player in Marcus Johansson

Today the Sabres announced that they signed 28-year-old forward Marcus Johansson to a 2-year 9-million dollar contract (4.5 million aav).

The Sabres are adding a middle-6 forward who brings playmaking ability, position versatility and the ability to make an impact at 5v5 and on the powerplay.

A modest $4.5 million for two-years is a very good signing by the Sabres. Especially when the player you signed has 334 points in 588 games.

Johansson may be a liability on defence sometimes, but he was one of the Bruins best players during the Stanley Cup playoffs (particularly in the Stanley Cup Final).

In 2018-19 Johansson split time between the Devils and the Bruins, logging 13 goals and 17 assists in 58 games. He also had good 5v5 production, scoring nine goals and 16 total points at even strength.

His 5v5 possession metrics were decent too, he was a 48.37% CF% player (51.87% CF% with the Bruins) and a 49% SCF% player (50.98% SCF% with the bruins). Had he spent the entire season with a better team his numbers could have looked a lot better.

Although he’s had some concussion issues, and will likely never be at the form he was during the 2016-17 season (24 goals, 58 points with 39 5v5 points in 82 games) the addition of Johansson is a much needed move for Jason Botterill and the Sabres.

Johansson brings four key things to the Sabres lineup…

– 5v5 scoring ability
– playmaking from the wing
– controlled zone entries
– position versatility

5v5 Scoring Ability

Aside from Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner the Sabres are lacking in 5v5 scoring ability.

With the additions of Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson it seems that Botterill is trying to add to the even strength scoring depth within the organization.

If you look at Johansson’s career, he’s more of a playmaker but he does have a knack for putting up a majority of his points at 5v5.

He’s a career 49.5% CF% player, who has 90 (of 120) goals and 146 (of 214) assists for 236 (of 334) points at even strength.

Johansson could be key for helping Casey Mittelstadt’s development. He could either play on Mittelstadt’s wing or he could slot in as a 2C for part of the season allowing the Sabres to shelter Casey’s minutes and allow for more patience in his development.


Aside from Reinhart, the Sabres don’t really have a playmaking winger… Skinner, Sheary, Olofssom, Nylander, Vesey, Thompson and even Okposo are considered goal scorers, not playmakers.

If Johansson ends up being slotted in as a winger he brings that playmaking ability that the Sabres don’t have in their wings.

Johansson has 214 career assists (0.36 assists per game) but has averaged more than 1.0 assists/60 for a majority of his career.

Pairing him with the right players is key, but if you can find him a line with good chemistry he will be able to showcase his excellent passing ability on a regular basis.

Johansson setup

This is an excellent display of Johansson’s playmaking ability, he shows great puck control, patience, and passing ability on the play.

He dekes past the defending player, circles back towards the net and when the seam opens for him he delivers a perfect pass to Jesper Bratt, but Bratt can’t convert on the play.

Johansson has really good vision, and is patient with the puck on his stick…this allows him to read the play and identify the right pass to make on a regular basis.

johansson pass

On this play Johansson delivers a perfect slap-pass to his teammate’s tape, if he had been able to control the pass it would have been an easy tap-in goal.

This type of vision, creativity and passing ability has been lacking (for the most part) on the Sabres’ wings…adding Johansson to the group on a small contract is a great addition by Jason Botterill.

Controlled Zone Entries

The Sabres have few players who can enter the zone with control of the puck. This is an area that the team had to address, and by adding Johansson they added a player who can do just that.

Johansson had the third most controlled zone entries during the Stanley Cup Final (34 total controlled entries) according to

Reinhart, Skinner, Eichel and to an extent Mittelstadt were the only forwards in Buffalo who could consistently enter the zone with poise and control…now the Sabres have another option when entering the zone.

Johansson - zone entry

Johansson can attack the opposing team’s blueline with confidence and can help setup the team’s offence, or generate chances off the rush.

Whether Johansson plays center, or wing having another player who can gain the offensive zone will be a welcomed sight next season.

Position Versatility

Johansson hasn’t played a regular shift at center since he joined the New Jersey Devils but he does have the ability to play on the wing or in the middle.

Depending on any additional moves the Sabres make, Johansson could be a stop-gap 2C before moving to the wing once Mittelstadt is ready.

Flexibility and versatility are things that Botterill has mentioned when looking for players to bring into the organization and Johansson fits that bill.

Johansson also adds flexibility to a potential Ristolainen trade, Johansson can be 2/3C or a 2/3 LW, so now the Sabres can target a player like Ehlers (winger) with Ristolainen and not have to worry about adding a veteran center because Johansson can be that veteran center if needed.

It isn’t the big move that the Sabres need this summer, but adding Johansson was a smart and calculated move by Jason Botterill, now he just needs to continue reshaping the roster before the season opens.

stats provided by naturalstattrick, eliteprospects, thepointhockey and hockey-reference


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