Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
DOB: June 10, 1986 (age, 29)
Draft: 2006, 5th round (125th overall)
How acquired: Trade with NY Islanders, March 2, 2015
Last contract signed: 2014--2 yr. $2.6M
Final year of contract: 2015-16
2015-16 Stats: 45 games, 22-16-4 record, 2.36 goals-against average, .920 save percentage, 1 shutout
What we wrote preseason: Johnson's all that's left of the 16 men in the crease for the Sabres over the last two grueling seasons and he entered training camp as back-up to No. 1 goalie Robin Lehner. Johnson has the ability as shown during his 2013-14 season in Boston [but] Long Island was a far cry from Boston, however, as Johnson was a brutal in a backup role to starter, Jaroslav Halak.
At the time of the deadline day trade to Buffalo, Jonathan Willis of the Edmonton Journal called Johnson's season in New York a "nightmare" and explained that the team was even worse with him in net than the numbers indicated. At 29 yrs. old with and NHL five seasons under his belt as a backup, Johnson knows the drill [in Buffalo]. “I’m just coming in and trying to take care of what I can,” Johnson said [last off season]. “If I play 30 games 40, 60, whatever it is, that’s to be determined with my play. They bring in a great goalie like Lehner who has played well in the past. We’re trying to push each other and that will help the team be better.”
What we wrote mid-season: "simply put, has been outstanding. Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma loves Johnson's calm demeanor in net. 'Johnny' has gained the confidence of coaches and players and seems to be getting better and stronger in net. Coughing up juicy rebounds has been a major roadblock to No. 1 goalie status for him but as of late he's been getting a handle on those. Not sure when the last time his confidence-level was this high, if ever. When Robin Lehner comes back from injury, it will be interesting to see how each react to the other as Johnson's making a case to remain the starter."
Impressions on his play this year: When Lehner did come back, Johnson went back to his role as back-up until Lehner went down again in mid-March and the team shut him down for surgery on March 30th. Throughout the season, Johnson was the consummate professional and took whatever role he was in to heart. He appeared in a career-high 45 games and won a career high 22 of them while posting GAA and SV% numbers that were second only to his time in Boston behind a staunch Bruins defense.
As mentioned mid-season, rebound control seemed to be a major stumbling block to Johnson earning bona fide No. 1 goalie status. He gained a lot of confidence in Buffalo and timed a career year very well as he'll be a free agent during this off season. With all the travel, work and progress he's made during his six-year NHL career it's not surprising that he wants to become a starter and he started his search for that opportunity at the end of the season. "There’s four teams that need goaltenders or starting goaltenders or don’t have guys that have done well," he said to the media at locker cleanout.
Questions moving forward: If Johnson's hell-bent upon becoming a starter, which team other than Buffalo will afford him that opportunity?