One believes Chad Johnson when he said that he hasn’t given the upcoming offseason much thought.
The Bruins netminder will be an unrestricted free agent after putting together a 17-4-3 record with a 2.10 goals against average and .925 save percentage in his first season as the backup netminder for Boston. He appeared in 27 games for the Black and Gold and was at his best for the Bruins while Tuukka Rask was going through a fatigue period in the month of January.
The 27-year-old Johnson wasn’t perfect: he seemed to be a little slow with the athletic, explosive moves from post-to-post, and was beaten multiple times on wraparound goals throughout the season. But it was largely a successful season in his first full NHL campaign where he proved he can handle being a backup netminder, and now he can potentially choose a free agent landing spot that will give him a chance at a starting spot.
Johnson said the first order of business will be deciding what his best move is: stick around with a Bruins team as the backup in a good, steady situation, or look for a situation a la Anton Khuodobin in Carolina where things might open up for a chance at a starting gig.
“I’ll definitely take some time and think about things. This is a great ownership group, great coaching staff, great management group and a great bunch of teammates,” said Johnson. “There are no walls set up on this team to separate one group from another, and that’s something you really appreciate as a player.
“But you also know there are only so many chances you’ll get to possibly prove yourself as a starting goaltender at the NHL level. That’s something I’d really like to give my best shot moving forward.”
Given the Bruins’ salary cap situation, it would appear Boston won’t be sparing much more than the $600,000 they used for the Johnson cap hit this season. It was the same amount offered by the Bruins to Khudobin last season before he gambled on Cam Ward getting injured again with the Hurricanes, and then parlayed things into a multi-year deal with Carolina.
Johnson would give the Bruins some piece of mind if he does return instead of handing the job over to a P-Bruins’ youngster like Niklas Svedberg, or Malcolm Subban, but it would appear his potential return to Boston isn’t imminent, and the Bruins will be looking to pluck another AHL goalie to turn into a completely serviceable puck-stopping force.