Thursday, September 21, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--G, Chad Johnson

Published by, 9-20-2017

Chad Johnson
31 yrs. old
6'3" 196 lbs.
2006, 5th round (125th overall, PIT)
2017 Free Agent

Career stats:  137 games  |  68-45-12 record  |  2.44 GAA  |  .915 Sv%  |  7 shutouts

I’m not sure the Sabres could ask for a better backup goaltender right now. When GM Jason Botterill signed Chad Johnson on July 1, he got himself a very capable backup who’s proven to be competent no matter how many games he’s called on to play.

Case in point.

In the very first game of the 2015-16 season with Buffalo ready to come out from the league cellar, Johnson was thrust into the role of starter when Robin Lehner suffered a high-ankle sprain. Johnson calmly took the reigns of a team trying to find it's way with a new head coach, a boat-load of new players and a new system. Lehner would return in mid-January but end up being shut down for the season after appearing in 20 games since coming back from injury.

Johnson appeared in a career high 45 games for the Sabres that season establishing another career-high in wins. He finished the season with a 22-16-4 record, a 2.36 GAA and .920 Sv% which were 15th and 13th in the league, respectively, for goalies appearing in 40 or more games. At the end of the season he signed a one-year deal with his hometown Calgary Flames, who at the time had no incumbent starter.

The Flames signed Johnson to back up Brian Elliott, whom they acquired from St. Louis in a 2016 draft day deal. Elliott would flame-out early in the season giving Johnson an opportunity to take the No. 1 spot in Calgary. By mid-December Johnson was in complete control of the job sporting a 13-4-1 record with a .932 Sv%. However that would fall apart as Elliott regained his form and took his starters role back from Johnson.

On July 1, the very first thing new GM Botterill did in free agency was to sign Johnson to a rather large $2.5 million for one season. Among the things the signing did was provide insurance move as Lehner was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who still had only on full season as a starter while also allowing third-year pro, Linus Ullmark, one more full season of development in Rochester.

 "We wanted to, instead of having a situation where some things beyond our control happen and it becomes a point of weakness, we wanted to have it as a position of strength," Botterill said at the end of a busy start to free agency. "And I think if you look at our one-two-three right now, it's a strength of our organization."

It should be remembered that Botterill was thrown right into the fire upon his May 11th hiring. He left his associate GM position with the Pittsburgh Penguins and immediately had to find a new head coach, tackle the upcoming NHL Entry Draft and the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft while also getting primed for free agency which included getting up to speed on his new roster as well as looking to fill holes, most notably on defense. It's really not all that surprising that after bringing in three new defensemen, the first thing he did was land a capable back-up right off the bat.

For his part, Johnson was thrilled to be back with the Sabres. “I see the organization going in the right direction," he said on a conference call July 1. "They’re committed to winning." There also was a familiarity having been only one year removed from the club. And he said he's got some "unfinished business."

“I won a lot of games and had good numbers so I think being able to come back and be a part of the organization again and to have that drive to win and get back in the playoffs is special for me. I always felt like there was unfinished business."

There is a strong sense in Buffalo and around the league that the Sabres are in the upswing again and although the playoffs might be out of reach, any hope of making a post season push will depend upon every player not only carrying their weight, but going above and beyond the call of duty.

It's something Johnson is well prepared for and something he's proven to be capable of.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner


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