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Capitals' Johansson to make best of 'bridge contract'

by Dan Rosen /

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Marcus Johansson arrived in the Washington D.C. area Tuesday, roughly 72 hours after signing his two-year, $4 million contract and in time to be at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on Wednesday for the start of training camp.

Johansson is aware that there are still some restricted free agents who aren't in training camps as they continue contract negotiations, but he never envisioned himself becoming one of them.

"I was always hoping and thinking I would be here when [training camp] started," Johansson said. "That's where everybody is, but if it would have come to that I would have dealt with it. It worked out and I'm really happy it did. It's just a great feeling to be here."

Johansson was vague when asked if he would have preferred to sign a longer-term contract, saying he didn't want to go into the details of the negotiations.

Capitals general manager George McPhee indicated the two-year contract, which is generally referred to as "the bridge deal" for restricted free agents, is his preferred way to go with all players like Johansson, who had three seasons in the League and was coming off his entry-level contract.

"The bridge deal is a little safer route to go for lots of reasons," McPhee said. "You want to know exactly what you're buying if you want to go long term. You worry about long-term contracts sometimes because you want to keep athletes hungry. Players get hurt sometimes and it's costly if they're on a long-term deal. So ideally we'd always do short-term deals, but that's not the nature of our league right now with some of our top players. The bridge deals buys you a little more time to sort out what you have."

The two-year contract could work out well for Johansson provided he continues to play on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin.

Johansson moved to the left wing on the top line in mid-March of last season and contributed 19 points over the final 21 games of the regular season. If he continues to produce like that there will be a bigger contract waiting for him in the summer of 2015.

"We think there's lots of upside there," McPhee said. "It buys him more time to prove himself, and playing on that line that he's playing on now he'll probably earn a lot of points and be able to get a bigger deal."

That's Johansson's plan.

"Somehow we work well together," he said of himself, Backstrom and Ovechkin. "I think we understand each other well from the start, but the more you play together you know where everybody is going to be at in different situations. The more you play together, the better you're going to be. It worked from the start and just got better and better. It's a pretty good feeling."


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