When the Capitals claimed goaltender Brent Johnson off waivers from Vancouver on Oct. 4, 2005, they did so because they liked him as a goaltender. Since his arrival in Washington he has become a better goaltender, and the Caps have also found him to be a very likeable guy. On Friday, the Caps announced they have signed Johnson to a two-year contract extension.
With the 29-year-old native of Farmington, Mich. in the fold for two more seasons beyond the current one, Washington’s goaltending picture becomes a bit clearer. Starter Olie Kolzig, who turns 37 in April, is signed through the 2007-08 season. Johnson’s contract extends a year beyond that.
“I’m very happy here,” says Johnson. “I know what my position is, and I am just so happy that [Caps general manager] George [McPhee] wanted to get me in here for two more years. It’s a huge confidence boost. Obviously I love all the guys on the team, I love being here and I am thinking about other things in life. Hopefully I will settle down here in Washington and raise a family.”
Originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the fifth round (129th overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft, Johnson was a starter for two seasons with the St. Louis Blues. He had his best campaign in 2001-02 when he won 34 games, with a 2.18 goals against average and a .902 save pct. with St. Louis.
Johnson was even better in the 2002 Stanley Cup playoffs, firing off three straight shutouts as St. Louis ousted Chicago in the opening round. For his career, Johnson sports a 1.84 career goals against average and a .931 save pct. in Stanley Cup playoff competition.
Johnson suffered an ankle injury in 2002-03, prompting the Blues to obtain Chris Osgood at the trading deadline that season. Osgood took over as the starter in St. Louis the following season, which led to Johnson being traded to the Phoenix Coyotes on Mar. 4, 2004.
“The low point in my career was probably in St. Louis, when they told me they were going to send me down and I got picked up by Phoenix,” remembers Johnson. “Once I got to Phoenix, it was about working on my game and getting back into the groove. That’s pretty much what I did here after the year off, too.”
Johnson signed with the Vancouver Canucks after the lockout, but the Caps claimed him off waivers a month later. After struggling in his first few months in Washington, Johnson settled in and had a very solid second half with the Capitals in 2005-06. He finished the season with a 9-12-1 record, a 3.44 goals against average, and a .905 save pct. Johnson was 5-3 with a 2.40 goals against average and a .940 save pct. during the second half of the 2005-06 campaign. Johnson enjoys playing in Washington, and playing for coach Glen Hanlon, the only former goaltender among the 30 NHL head coaches.
Johnson’s strong finish led to his resigning with Washington last summer. Halfway through this season, he has now signed on for two more. His experience as a starter and in the playoffs gives the Caps a solid counterpart to Kolzig for the remainder of this season and next, and also provides an insurance policy for the 2008-09 season in the event that Kolzig does not sign another contract extension for any reason. Washington spent two of its top three draft choices on netminders in 2006, tabbing Russian Simeon Varlamov and Czech Michal Neuvirth
in the first and second rounds, respectively. Neither is expected to be NHL ready in the next two or three seasons.
“The team continues to get better and better,” says Johnson. “I think that our system is great here, and Glennie is an unbelievable coach. It’s exciting. Who knows what the position will be for me in the next year or two? Hopefully, I will get better and get some more games, and hopefully I will be a starter here one day.”