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Jack Johnson signs five-year contract with Penguins

Defenseman gets $3.25 million annually, had 11 points for Blue Jackets last season

by Wes Crosby / NHL.com Correspondent

CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Jack Johnson signed a five-year, $16.25 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. It has an annual average value of $3.25 million.

The 31-year-old defenseman had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season after scoring 23 points (five goals, 18 assists) the previous season.

The Penguins traded forward Conor Sheary and defenseman Matt Hunwick to the Buffalo Sabres for a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on June 27 in an attempt to create enough room under the NHL salary cap to make signing Johnson possible.

 

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"It just seemed like a perfect fit in every which way," Johnson said. "I feel very blessed to have the opportunity to be here, to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. ... I've been really wanting to be part of a winning culture and a place where the expectations to win are as high as they could be."

Penguins center Sidney Crosby, a friend of Johnson's, reached out after the season. 

"We had kind of a short conversation about it," Johnson said. "He said he'd like to give me a sales job on coming. I saved him the time and said he doesn't have to do much of a sales job on me.

"Your job is to play defense first, contribute in the offense when you can and get the puck out of our zone as quickly as possible. Being able to get it to world-class players like Sid, [Evgeni] Malkin, [Phil] Kessel ... makes my job a little easier and a lot more fun."

Video: Penguins sign D Jack Johnson to five-year contract

Johnson was a healthy scratch in each of the Blue Jackets' six Stanley Cup Playoff games. He requested a trade in January, citing a reduced role and wanting to better position himself for unrestricted free agency, but was not traded prior to the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.

"[Penguins coach Mike Sullivan] watched the three games leading up to when he was put in the press box and we felt he actually played pretty well," Rutherford said. "The coaches, [assistant Sergei Gonchar] and [Sullivan], have gone over the tapes over and over watching him play, and we feel very strong about this player, that he's going to improve our team. ...

"One of the things that we lacked last year was three pairings that we had a puck-mover on. Jack's a good skater, good puck-mover. He can play both sides, he can play on either specialty team."

The Carolina Hurricanes selected Johnson in the first round (No. 3) of the 2005 NHL Draft and traded him to the Los Angeles Kings on Sept. 29, 2006. Los Angeles traded him to Columbus on Feb. 23, 2012. He has 278 points (66 goals, 212 assists) in 788 NHL games with the Blue Jackets and Kings, and 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) in 23 playoff games.

Johnson was drafted by the Hurricanes when Rutherford was their GM. It was two picks after the Penguins selected Crosby No. 1.

"He's the one who drives the boat around here and I know him well enough to know that he's the kind of guy that wants five Cups, and the minute he gets a fifth he's going to want a sixth," Johnson said of Crosby, a former teammate at Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Minnesota. "That's important to me to be a part of that, to have someone like him leading the charge on that. All those things factored into this being a wonderful opportunity."

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