CALGARY, AB -- Chad Johnson has patiently waited.
And now he’ll finally get his homecoming.
The goaltender signed a one-year deal with the Calgary Flames shortly after the opening of free agency Friday.
“It was very surreal,” said Johnson, who posted a 22-16-1 record with a 2.36 GAA and .920 save percentage with the Buffalo Sabres last season. “It’s been a dream since I can remember to be a part of the Flames organization. I grew up here in Calgary. It’s very surreal. It’s been a whirlwind…this whole week really with just having discussions with different teams and GM’s…quite a few with (Calgary general manager Brad Treliving).
“The hometown thing for me and where the team is at and my role and opportunity was just too over-powering for me to go somewhere else.
“It was a no-brainer for me to be a part of the Flames. I’ve always been a fan so for me to be able to help control of the success of the team is amazing and it’s an amazing feeling to be a part of it.”
Johnson joins a completely revamped crease in Calgary.
Out are last year’s foursome of Karri Ramo, Jonas Hiller, Joni Ortio and Niklas Backstrom, who collectively surrendered an NHL-high 257 non-shootout goals and combined for the worst team save percentage in 2015-16.
In is Johnson and Brian Elliott, acquired one week ago in a draft day trade from the St. Louis Blues, will form the Flames’ tandem in 2016-17.
“I think last year was a very similar situation,” said Johnson, who has had NHL stops with the New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Boston Bruins, New York Islanders, and most recently the Sabres.
“From what I hear, we are both really good guys and we both want to be a part of a winning team and we both want to play. I think having a good relationship is huge and we will push each other to make each other better and push for playing time and that will hopefully make the team better as well. I think our styles are very similar. He’s a very positional goalie, very technical and I’m the same way. A very quiet moving goalie and in great position and consistent.
“I think there’s a lot of things that will bring stability to the goaltending this year. I didn’t watch a lot of game but I know there were maybe issues there at times early on but I think with our style we are going to be able to bring some stability and some consistency on a daily basis and make the saves that we’re supposed and maybe some that we shouldn’t so I think it will be good.”
Johnson knows the struggles of late in Calgary’s crease.
He’s kept tabs on the Flames.
As a fan.
“Absolutely,” Johnson said.
“I remember playing in Brooks in the AJHL when the Flames went on that playoff run to the finals (in 2004). The whole city got behind that. I think as a local guy and as a fan and always a fan of the team you want to see that for the city and the team.
“Two years ago when I was a free agent I wanted to be with the team but it just wasn’t the right fit at the time so when free agency opened up this year it was one of those things where I wanted to be a part of the team. The motivation I don’t think can be higher when you have the opportunity to go to your hometown and your home city. It’s just exciting.
“It’s been a whirlwind so I’m just happy to be able to be a part of the team and to get the team back into the playoffs and hunt for the Stanley Cup.”