The Sabres have made their first move in free agency, and it's another familiar face coming back to Buffalo. Goalie Chad Johnson, who appeared in 45 games for the Sabres in 2015-16, has signed a one-year deal for $2.5 million.
Johnson left Buffalo in free agency last summer to join his hometown Calgary Flames, where he split the goaltending duties with Brian Elliott. In 36 starts last season, Johnson posed an 18-15-1 record with a .910 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average.
Calgary traded Johnson and his negotiating rights to Arizona on June 17.
We know some time has passed since we last saw Johnson in a Sabres sweater, so let's get reacquainted with the Buffalo goaltender.
Looking back on Johnson's time with the Sabres
The Sabres originally acquired Johnson on March 2, 2015 in a trade that sent Michael Neuvirth to the New York Islanders. He sustained a season-ending ankle injury hours before he was scheduled to make his first start for Buffalo, however, putting his debut on the shelf until the following season.
That debut came on opening night in 2015-16, when Robin Lehner went down with his own ankle injury in the first period against the Ottawa Senators. Johnson was thrust into the net thereafter, setting the course for a career year for the goaltender. He made 45 appearances (40 starts), posting a .910 save percentage and a 2.59 goals-against average.
Johnson even etched his name into the Sabres record books, setting a new mark for saves in a regular-season shutout with his 44-save performance against Anaheim on Dec. 17 of that season.
More than anything, Johnson established a reputation for being a reliable goaltender with a calming demeanor. He was voted as the team's unsung hero at season's end.
"This season was really good, a big year for me. And the Unsung Hero Award means tons to me," Johnson told Brian Duff at the end of that season. "I was able to get respect back [here and League-wide] after having so few games last year and none in Buffalo. And the guys played well in front of me and vice versa. So let's keep it building."
After a year away, Johnson will now have that chance.
Where he'll fit
Johnson will likely be Robin Lehner's backup to begin the season. Lehner is a restricted free agent, but Sabres general manager Jason Botterill said Friday that he's confident the two sides will come to an agreement on a new contract within the next month or so.
Beyond Lehner and Johnson, the Sabres have Linus Ullmark, with whom Johnson split time when Lehner was injured two seasons ago, Jonas Johansson and Jason Kasdorf rounding out the goaltending depth chart.
A few highlights
Johnson developed a penchant for making the clutch save during his season in Buffalo. You might remember this one in overtime against Philadelphia:
And this one, which saved a game in Detroit after Johan Larsson had scored to give the Sabres the lead:
Last but not least, here's Johnson and Ullmark taking a foodie tour of Buffalo:
Video: BBG: Good Goalie Eats