Photo by Bruce Bennett / Getty Images
Today, the Washington Capitals announced that they had signed two players; 1st-line center Nicklas Backstrom, who was signed to a contract extension, and 2009 draft pick Marcus Johansson, who was signed for a three-year entry level contract. Both are Swedish, and both play center.
Nicklas Backstrom recently came off a career-best 101 point season, where he had 33 goals and 68 assists. His 101 points were good for #4 in the NHL, behind Henrik Sedin (112 points), Alexander Ovechkin (109 points), and Sidney Crosby (109 points). Backstrom has almost always played as center for Ovechkin, and the two are great friends. Together, their 210 points are the highest total points for a pair of players in the NHL.
Nicklas Backstrom’s new contract is for 10 years and $67 million, with a very reasonable salary-cap hit of $6.7 million a year. With this decade contract, the Capitals ensure that they will have both Backstrom and Ovechkin playing together until the 2020-2021 season, when Backstrom’s contract expires. Backstrom could have easily gotten $7+ million a year, but with this good deal, he allows the Capitals to keep the team together more easily. Also, having Backstrom at 6.7 million a year is a good indicator for whatever contract Alexander Semin might receive; with Backstrom getting an average of 6.7 million a year, Alexander Semin, who gets fewer points but more goals, could, at most, get the same amount… but possibly less. Whether or not a long term extension their works out remains to be seen.
Marcus Johansson was chosen by the Washington Capitals with the 24th pick in last year’s NHL Draft; he is a 19-year-old Swedish center. Johansson hasn’t exactly lit up the Swedish hockey leagues, scoring 10 goals and 10 assists in 42 games in his most recent season; however, in the 2010 World Junior championships, he served as captain for Team Sweden, and scored 1 goal and 5 assists in 5 games, as well as getting 29 penalty minutes. Whether his performance in the World Junior championships was a fluke, or his teammates in the Swedish leagues aren’t at the same level…. Johansson will play in Hershey next season. Should he show promise, he could very well be a 2nd or 3rd line center with the Caps sometime in the future; of course, so could Mathieu Perreault (a Canadian center currently playing in Hershey) or Anton Gustafsson (another Swedish center, loaned to the Swedish league from Hershey so that he could get more playing time). The center position is currently the weakest for the Caps, and having at least 3 prime prospects for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th line centers as well as the option to use players like Eric Belanger, Boyd Gordon, or David Steckel gives the Capitals plenty of players to fill those positions.