DOB: June 10, 1986 (Age, 31)
Draft: 2006, 5th round (125th-overall) PIT
How acquired: FA
Last contract signed: July 1, 2017, 1yr./$2.5 million
Final year of contract: 2017-18
2017-18 Stats: 36 games played | 10-16-3 record | 3.55 GAA | .891 Sv % | 0 shutouts
Buffalo Career Stats: 81 games | 32-32-7 record | 2.85 GAA | .907 Sv% | 7 shutouts
What we wrote preseason: 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.
On July 1, the very first thing Botterill did in free agency was to sign Johnson to a one-year deal at a rather large $2.5 million salary. Among the things the Johnson signing did was provide insurance as Lehner was a restricted free agent with arbitration rights who still had only on full season. It also allowied third-year pro, Linus Ullmark, one more full season of development in Rochester.
There is a strong sense in Buffalo and around the league that the Sabres are on 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.
What we wrote mid-season: If the Sabres ever want to really turn things around, then odds are that Johnson won't be in net. Not sure what happened to him between now and the last time he donned the Blue and Gold, but he's had a real tough go of it this year. We expect a certain, sometimes rather large, drop-off from starter to backup, but he has been brutal this season. Once again, prior to the Sabres last six games, Johnson was 1-5-2 with a 3.64 GAA and .883 sv%. And after the 5-4 loss to Carolina on Friday in his only start during that stretch, those numbers became worse. Johnson's name is also in the rumor mill.
Impressions on his play this year: A total miss in the preseason thoughts. Johnson truly was brutal early in the season, and you can pin a good portion of the blame on the skaters in front of him. Yet the many of the goals he let in were bad to very bad. "At the end of the day I was in some real tough situations and they really got the best of me," Johnson told the gathered media at locker cleanout. "I had some tough matchups and I couldn't get the results I wanted. It's on me"
Which was true. He also said that once the team started playing better, "the results were there." Johnson didn't think he was too far off of his game and said the results left him "pissed off and bitter." He alluded to a tough situation early in the season that wasn't anything like he expected and said that if he'd known what was going to happen, "obviously I wouldn't have put my...(pause)...career, ahh, in a situation like that."
Johnson said he didn't step up when he needed to, which we saw throughout much of the season and he began laying the blame on the team. "For 20 or 29 games it seemed like a mess," he said, "and things need to obviously change for a goalie to have success. I know I'm a good goalie in this league and I've shown that when things are the way they should be. When it's not, I can't do anything in my own power."
"I have to see the change," he said about entertaining the thought of staying in Buffalo. "whether it's through players, or somehow convince me through contracts, through whatever it is to come back."
Questions moving forward: Where will he end up next? As teams look at the tape, like he suggested, how much less than $2.5 million will he get next season? With the Sabres about to land a franchise d-man in the draft, does he wish he'd have used a softer, more diplomatic approach when addressing the organization?
Contract info via CapFriendly, stats via sabres.com and hockey reference.com.
Locker cleanout video via sabres.com: