Prior to the Colorado Avalanche’s preseason overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks, the club announced another victory—one with a more lasting impact.
Rear guard Erik Johnson was signed to a seven-year contract extension, making him a member of the Avs until the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.
|Erik Johnson |
“[I’m] really grateful, really excited. It shows a huge commitment from ownership—the Kroenke family—from Joe [Sakic] and Patty [Roy] and everyone, all the way down,” the 27-year-old blueliner told ColoradoAvalanche.com. “I’m just really excited to be with this group, this core and this group of guys for the next seven years. It’s a big statement, and I’m really fortunate and really happy.
“It’s a great feeling, but this is just a chapter and we have a lot of work to [do]. This just gets it out of the way, and I can think about hockey and helping this team win, which is most important.”
Johnson was having quite the 2014-15 season before an injury sidelined him for the remainder of the schedule. He finished tied for first among Avalanche defensemen with a career-high 12 goals in just 47 games, and added 11 assists to finish second in points among rear guards as well.
The Bloomington, Minnesota, native also averaged a team-high 24:25 of ice time per game and had even led all NHL defensemen in goals before his season ended.
“For me personally, it was a really good start to the year. I had one of my best years until the injury,” Johnson said. “I wish [there] could have been better success for the team, but we know how good of a group we have and what we can do going forward. Just a great group of individuals that we have.”
Coming off of a career year, Johnson noted he wanted to keep negotiations from becoming a distraction. He said he’d rather focus on his good fortune and what he needs to do to bring the team a Stanley Cup.
“It’s natural for any player, when they’re going through negotiations, to think about it,” Johnson admitted. “For me, just going through this process over the last couple months… you’ve just got to put it in perspective and just realize how fortunate you are to be able to play this game for a living and to make good money doing it. So I realize I’m in a very fortunate position and really thankful for that.
“At the same time, I’m just really happy to get it out of the way. It’s a great deal for myself and the team, and I just want to build upon it and go forward and start the season and just help the team any way I can.”
The deal takes Johnson through his prime and ends as he turns 35 years old, a fact that is both observed and somewhat distressing to the young defenseman.
“I know, don’t talk to me about that. It makes me cringe,” Johnson joked during a media scrum. “This is my ninth year coming up here. To think about taking me to that age. I remember breaking in as a 19-year-old and playing with Keith Tkachuk, who was that age, and I thought he was so old.
“I’m sure when I’m that age, when I finish this contract here—after we’ve won a few Stanley Cups—that there’s going to be some young 18-year-old looking at me and saying, ‘Look at that old guy.’”
Despite the jokes, Johnson said he sees his fellow Avalanche as an exciting core of players that is full of potential, and that is one of the reasons why he wanted to stay with Colorado.
“I’m just really excited to be able to be with this group for a long time,” the first-overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft told ColoradoAvalanche.com. “We have a team that can contend for a long time and that’s part of the reason why I wanted to have a longer deal. I think we can win for a long time, and that’s one of the most exciting parts.”