July 1st is one of the biggest days in the NHL, and tons of free agents, including Erik Johnson, will officially be available to the highest bidder.
Teams allowed to re-sign their own players, or poach veterans, superstars — and even Stanley Cup champions — from other clubs. While a ton of players are on the block, there are a few key players that have many possible options for their future.
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The second group includes former first-overall pick and Stanley Cup champion Erik Johnson. The Colorado Avalanche veteran has had a long career full of both victories and injuries, and this offseason could be pivotal for the American-born defenseman.
With that in mind, here are three potential offseason outcomes for Erik Johnson, including testing his value in NHL free agency.
Colorado could re-sign Erik Johnson
While his current AAV is $6 million, and the 2022 Stanley Cup champions are in a bit of a salary cap pickle, it’s very possible that the 35-year-old defenseman takes a significant pay cut to stay with his current team. It would work out well for both parties, as the team captain, Gabriel Landeskog, will be out for all of next season following yet another surgery.
Erik Johnson, alongside Landeskog, is one of the longest-serving members of the Avalanche and could provide a level of leadership that would otherwise be lacking as a result of the captain’s injury. And, as he’s been with the club for a long time, he understands his role in the system and how to play in it.
Johnson has been with the Avalanche since the dismal 2012-2013 season and won a Stanley Cup with them after a decade of highs and lows. He’s increasingly injury prone, but the Avalanche were the team that took a chance on him after it looked like his career may be over. And after suffering significant injuries in the 2022-23 season, it seems plausible that he could compromise on salary to stay with the team that gave him a lot over his career.
The Buffalo Sabres could acquire Erik Johnson
Assuming Johnson will take a significant pay cut if he opts not to retire, he could be a perfect fit for a team like the Buffalo Sabres, who lack leadership and need a mentor to usher in the future.
The team has talent on the blue line, namely in Rasmus Dahlin, but their oldest defenseman was born in 1994. The team has Kyle Okposo as a veteran presence up front but could use Johnson in the back end to help elevate Dahlin’s game and offer him some veteran experience in the locker room.
And, if Johnson agrees to a contract even in the $3 million range, it could be a lucrative and beneficial opportunity for the Sabres. Even if Erik Johnson lands on LTIR, his presence on the team could be enough to make an impact.
Erik Johnson could retire
For the same reasons listed above, the 35-year-old could choose to hang up his skates for good. He’s won a Stanley Cup and enjoyed a 15-year career, accumulating 337 points in 920 games played. He’s come a long way from being selected first overall in the 2006 NHL entry draft and achieved a ton of accolades despite an injury-riddled career.
He’s a big man, weighing in at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, and his knee issues have plagued him throughout his career. At his age, he could be angling to focus on his health off the ice, instead turning to his passion for horses, as he is a proprietor and commercial racehorse breeder in his spare time. He is known to name horses after his teammates, and one is even named Landeskog. So, he could step away from the ice to spend more time with his horses and heal his body.