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Johansson ready to start 'new adventure' with Devils

Forward embracing change, opportunity after trade from Capitals

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Before moving on to his new life with the New Jersey Devils, forward Marcus Johansson is wrapping up his old life as a member of the Washington Capitals.

Johansson, who was traded to the Devils on July 2, looked like he was still with the Capitals on Monday, skating at Kettler Capitals Iceplex with a group of about 10 players getting ready for training camp in September. He dressed in the Capitals locker room, and he wore his old Capitals helmet with No. 90 on it and a Capitals practice jersey. His red and black gloves and black pants were signs that he's getting ready to join the Devils.

"It feels good to be back," Johansson said. "We're here to pack up the house stuff to get ready to go to New Jersey. It's a little bit different, but I guess [being traded is] a part of the game and I got to learn that the hard way. But I'm excited for it. It's going to be a good challenge, fun to take the family somewhere new and start a new adventure."

Trading Johansson to the Devils for second- and third-round picks in the 2018 NHL Draft was the price the Capitals had to pay to get out of the NHL salary-cap crunch they were in after re-signing defenseman Dmitry Orlov (six years, $30.6 million), right wing T.J. Oshie (eight years, $46 million) and center Evgeny Kuznetsov (eight years, $62.4 million). The Devils pounced on the opportunity to acquire a top-six forward who set NHL career highs with 24 goals and 58 points last season.

Although Johansson is leaving a team that won the Presidents' Trophy the past two seasons and joining one that hasn't qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2011-12, he believes the Devils are on the upswing. They've had a productive offseason, selecting center Nico Hischier with the No. 1 pick of the 2017 draft, adding veteran unrestricted free agent forwards Brian Boyle and Drew Stafford, and signing rookie defenseman Will Butcher on Sunday.

Butcher, who won the Hobey Baker Award as the top player in NCAA Division I men's hockey with the University of Denver last season, became a free agent after not signing with the Colorado Avalanche, who selected him in the fifth round (No. 123) of the 2013 draft.

Video: 31 in 31: New Jersey Devils 2017-18 season preview

"It's a good group, a group of young guys, [a] team and organization that's heading in the right direction," Johansson said. "It feels like coming there now you're part of that almost from the start. I'm feeling really good about this. It's going to be a fun year."

Johansson, who turns 27 on Oct. 6, also hopes he'll have an opportunity to play a bigger role with the Devils.

"That would be fun," he said. "That's a chance to take the next step as well as a player. I'm excited for new opportunities and new challenges. You get there and you don't really know anything, I don't know anyone, which is kind of fun too."

Johansson said he didn't know anyone with the Devils before the trade, but "pretty much the whole team has reached out" to him since then.

"It seems like a great organization with some great people in it," he said. "So far, I've only got positive stuff to say about everyone and everyone I've heard from. It's a good opportunity for me. I think I'm coming to a great place."

Johansson, chosen by the Capitals with the No. 24 pick in 2009, has yet to find a place to live in New Jersey. He'll search for a home after heading there next week. First, he has to move out of his house in the Washington area. 

He wasn't planning to skate with the Capitals while he was here until defenseman John Carlson invited him. That's how he ended up wearing a Capitals practice jersey instead of the Devils practice jersey he left at his home in Sweden.

Video: WSH@BOS: Johansson scores on pretty give-and-go

"It feels different. It feels weird," he said. "I wasn't sure if I was going to come in [to skate with the Capitals] or not. This has been home for seven years and now it's not anymore, so it feels a little different. But it seems like there's a lot of changes going on around here and it's not just me that's leaving."

In addition to trading Johansson, the Capitals lost defenseman Nate Schmidt to the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL Expansion Draft, as well as three unrestricted free agents -- forward Justin Williams (Carolina Hurricanes) and defensemen Karl Alzner (Montreal Canadiens) and Kevin Shattenkirk (New York Rangers). Although Johansson leaves behind some good friends, the Capitals will have a different look when he faces them for the first time at Prudential Center on Oct. 13 (or in the preseason on Sept. 18 and 27).  

"Maybe that's good for us other guys that left that it's not all the same," Johansson said. "That's part of the game. Sometimes you have to change things. We had some good opportunities to win these past two years and we didn't take them, and I think this is what comes afterward."

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