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Marcus Johansson could be key depth player for Blackhawks to target in free agency

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MoJo could help Chicago get its groove back.

2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five
Marcus Johansson of the Boston Bruins plays in the Stanley Cup Final
Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

As part of a continuing series before free agency begins, Second City Hockey breaks down potential offseason targets for the Blackhawks. Here’s Marcus Johansson, who split the 2018-19 season between the Devils and the Eastern Conference Champion Boston Bruins.

When did the Blackhawks lose their mojo? When they traded both Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson? Was it when they lost Marian Hossa to a debilitating skin allergy? Well, maybe signing somebody named MoJo might get it back.

Marcus Johansson has become a journeyman. He was a deadline acquisition by the Bruins this season, and his 11 points in 22 playoff games from a third-line position, including two goals on the power play and one game-winning goal, played a instrumental part in the Bruins getting to the Stanley Cup Final.

Strengths

So it makes sense Johansson will be a highly-sought-after free agent on July 1. But his best role is likely as a third-liner, and that’s what the Blackhawks need for this upcoming season and beyond — more forward depth. Signing Johansson would mean the Blackhawks get a player who can be a center piece of their third line and play, and elevate the play of young forwards like Dominik Kubalik and David Kampf. After all, Johansson has been incredibly effective during the past three seasons.

Johansson doesn’t shoot a ton, and only had 115 shots last season (1.98 shots per game). Still, He’s been a prolific passer and somebody who can get the puck into the zone before setting up a play. Kubalik had 25 goals last season in the Czech League and 15 in the Czech Republic’s international play, so he’s adept at finishing a play. If that is the other winger on the third line, Johansson might be a good fit alongside him.

Johansson also has practice making a line better in terms of possession. In both New Jersey in the regular season and in the playoffs, he did it with talented forwards like Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt with the Devils and Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen with the Bruins.

Line Combo Metrics

Line Time on Ice Corsi For % Shot Share Goal Share Expected Goal Share High-Danger Share Off. Faceoff %
Line Time on Ice Corsi For % Shot Share Goal Share Expected Goal Share High-Danger Share Off. Faceoff %
Hischier, Bratt, Johansson 89:51:00 49.46 50.47 66.67 46.57 50 41.67
Hischier, Bratt w/o Johansson 204:00:00 48.03 48.26 42.86 56.34 56.79 49.64
Zacha, Bratt, Johansson 119:40:00 51.28 49.61 36.36 46.35 49.06 36.84
Zacha, Bratt w/o Johansson 99:52:00 49.24 46.96 50 45.4 37.84 48.15
Coyle, Heinen, Johansson (playoffs) 134:01:00 51.82 52.8 63.64 54.96 58.14 63.64
Coyle, Heinen, w/o Johansson 44:22:00 47.67 48 75 49.78 62.5 22.22

So Johansson should help a combination of Kubalik and Kampf move the puck. He also had .52 points per game in 58 regular-season games, and 24 of his 30 points were primary. Ten of his 11 postseason points came either on the primary assist or as the goal scorer as well.

So he’s incredibly effective at moving the puck and somebody who can be relied upon to be a scoring force as well. Johansson seems worth the bidding war it may take to get him on the Blackhawks this offseason, but there are some notable flaws in his game as well.

Flaws

He’s injury prone. That’s perhaps is largest flaw — he’s one of the best players when he can stay on the ice, and somebody who could be a help in the Blackhawks’ top nine. But that’s the problem - he can’t stay on the ice.

This last season, Johansson played just 58 games. The season before, he played just 29, but still produced in 14 games. He’s struggled with concussion issues, which sound familiar - arguably the Blackhawks’ most important player, Corey Crawford, has had the same issue. He also dealt with a lung contusion in his tenure with the Bruins.

And even if Johansson can avoid head hits if he signs with the Blackhawks, which is not a sure thing, he’s not getting any younger. It may be dangerous to give term to Johansson, as he turns 29 in October. While players like Johansson, those who always play a strong two-way game that doesn’t overly rely on speed, can age well (see Hossa). Mid term (three to four years) might be worth the risk.

After all, before the last two seasons, Johansson didn’t have issues with his health. He played 70 games or more from 2013-17, and played 34 of 48 games in 2012-13. So maybe this is just a blip.

Johansson isn’t terrific on the power play, however, and for the cap hit Johansson could command, he needs to improve on the man advantage.

So should the Blackhawks sign him?

Yes, if they can keep the term short and the cap hit to five-six million. At that price, he’s a middle-six forward who’s incredibly effective at his job and can play well with young forwards or with experienced players.

But he’s not excellent on the power play, something the Blackhawks need more of on their second unit, and he’s been injury prone in his last two seasons, and at nearly 29, needs to be assumed to be so until proven otherwise.

While signing Johansson could bring the Blackhawks a talented forward able to be a play driver and someone who can produce points from a depth role, it may also be a contract they regret in the future.

Poll

Should the Blackhawks sign Marcus Johansson?

This poll is closed

  • 26%
    Yes
    (192 votes)
  • 73%
    No
    (532 votes)
724 votes total Vote Now