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Capitals' Marcus Johansson happy to avoid arbitration

Forward signs three-year contract, likes direction Washington is headed

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

This time around, the Washington Capitals and Marcus Johansson beat the clock.

Johansson was standing outside a conference room in Toronto minutes before his scheduled salary arbitration hearing on Wednesday when he and the Capitals agreed to a three-year contract.

It is worth $13.75 million, an average of $4,583,333 per season. Johansson will earn $4.25 million this season and $4.75 million in 2017-18 and 2018-19.

"We started getting close to each other this morning and I think both parties were kind of hoping that we could figure it out before we went into the meeting, and I think both parties are really happy that we did," Johansson said. "It was a little tight schedule before the meeting, but I'm really happy that we worked it out. We're just happy to move on and get ready for the season here."

Video: The guys analyze Marcus Johansson's new contract

Johansson and the Capitals were unable to avoid salary arbitration a year ago, and the 25-year-old forward was awarded a one-year contract for $3.75 million. According to reports, Johansson submitted a request for $5.25 million in arbitration this time and the Capitals countered at $3.85 million on a one-year contract that would have brought him to unrestricted free agency when it expired.

The sides settled on an average salary that landed almost in the middle of their requests.

"I don't think anyone wants to go to arbitration," Johansson said. "That's kind of a last resort. I love it in Washington, my whole family does, and we're really happy to be able to stay there.

"I don't have any complaints about being in Washington. I love the guys and the fans and the whole organization and I'm really happy that we could work something out and be able to stay for three more years. That was really important for me and I think everyone's happy with how it turned out."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Johansson buries loose puck to tie it

With Johansson re-signed, defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who passed on his opportunity to file for salary arbitration, is the Capitals' lone remaining unsigned restricted free agent. According to General Fanager, the Capitals have roughly $3.45 million in remaining salary cap space to fit in Orlov, who turns 25 on Saturday.

Getting Johansson locked up at a reasonable price and having him sign for two years beyond when he would have been eligible to become an unrestricted free agent was important to Washington, which kept its core intact from a team that won the Presidents' Trophy and set a Capitals record with 56 wins last season. Johansson views it as a positive for him as well.

"To be able to keep the team [together] is hard," he said. "I think it's hard for everyone and I'm just happy that we could figure it out in the end to be able to be a part of this team for three more years. That's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously a cap in the NHL and they have to find a way to stay under it and we finally came to an agreement that made both parties happy."

Johansson, who was selected by the Capitals in the first round (No. 24) of the 2009 NHL Draft, had 17 goals, 29 assists and a plus-12 rating in 74 regular-season games last season. He had two goals and five assists in 12 Stanley Cup Playoff games. In 419 NHL regular-season games, he has 78 goals and 232 points.

Video: WSH@PHI, Gm3: Johansson knots game on the power play

Johansson's 46 points last season were one short his career high from 2014-15.

"I've been working on trying to score more goals and get more pucks to the net and I feel like it's getting better and is going to keep getting better as well," he said.

Although the Capitals haven't gotten past the second round of the playoffs since they made their only Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998, Johansson said he believes they are moving in the right direction. They thought they had a team capable of winning it all last season before losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round in six games.

Since then, general manager Brian MacLellan upgraded the bottom-six forwards by acquiring Lars Eller from the Montreal Canadiens to center the third line and signed unrestricted free agent right wing Brett Connolly to a one-year contract.

"We feel like we're getting better all the time and these few changes, I think, are pushing us in the right direction as well," Johansson said. "[MacLellan] has done a great job getting us what we need. Last year, we showed that we're really contending and [if] we keep building on that and keep getting a little bit better all the time, I think we're going to have a really good chance."

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