What might a Chad Johnson contract extension look like?

With the new year fast approaching, the conversation is going to start picking up on potential contract extensions for players like Chad Johnson. That’s because players on one-year deals are eligible to sign extensions starting Jan. 1. 

Is it too early for the Flames to start going down that road with Johnson? And what might a new deal look like for one of Calgary’s most pleasant surprises this season?

The Flames have two players who become eligible for contract extensions come Jan. 1: Johnson and Kris Versteeg. While the former is who we’re discussing today, both players should open up some very interesting dialogue in terms of their future in Calgary. On the Johnson front, I broke my analysis down into two categories to try and get a gauge on what a new deal might look like.

Performance

Judging his entire 21 game body of work, Johnson has had a very solid season. Overall, he’s been the the better of Calgary’s two goalies by a fairly significant margin, as illustrated below.


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Part of Johnson’s solid season was a stellar 13 game run between Nov. 15 and Dec. 10 when he played the position as well as anyone on the planet. During that stretch, Johnson went 11-2-0 with a 0.947 save percentage, the best mark in the league during that time period. It was a run reminiscent of Miikka Kiprusoff’s best years in Calgary and was the driving force behind the team’s season-saving turnaround.

Now, hockey like that is usually not sustainable and Johnson has now lost his last three starts since that 13 game tear. However, it was a pretty eye-opening month of hockey and by far the best goaltending the Flames have received this season. It’s not like playing good hockey is something new for Johnson, though.

Prior to joining the Buffalo Sabres last season, Johnson had built up a reputation as one of the most reliable and consistent backup goalies in the league. Then last season, after an early injury to Robin Lehner, Johnson got a shot to be counted on for an extended period of time as a number one and he thrived.

Johnson started 40 games last season with the Sabres and, on one of the league’s worst teams, still managed an impressive 0.920 save percentage. In fact, in two seasons when he’s actually been given a number one shot, Johnson has been one of the league’s better goalies. Below is a look at his save percentage totals dating back to the start of the 2015-16 season and where it puts him in relation to the rest of the league.


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While not necessarily elite, Johnson has posted numbers commensurate with a number one goalie’s over his last 66 games (61 starts). For me, I view Johnson as a viable number one on a team lacking an elite option like Carey Price, Cory Schneider, or Ben Bishop.

While Johnson isn’t necessarily at the top tier level, with a career 0.918 save percentage he’s proven the ability to punch in quality starts on a regular basis. That’s not something the Flames have had in abundance in their recent history.

Contract comparables

So we’ve established what type of goalie Johnson has been the last number of years, and, specifically how well he’s played since the start of last season. Now, for sake of this conversation, let’s assume the Flames have a desire to sign him to a contract extension. What might that deal look like?

To start getting a better idea, I came up with a list of players who have signed extensions in recent years with similar situations as Johnson’s now. All four had similar circumstances and numbers prior to their latest deals and, at the age of 30, I think Johnson compares nicely.


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The most interesting case for a Johnson comparison is Talbot’s because of how similar their circumstances were. Talbot signed his three-year, $12.5 million contract extension on Jan. 17 of 2016 about halfway into his first season with the Edmonton Oilers.

Much like Johnson, Talbot had gotten his first real shot the year prior with the New York Rangers after Henrik Lundqvist went down for a period of time. And, much like Johnson, he found himself on a new team the following season. If you’re Johnson, why wouldn’t you be using Talbot’s deal with the Oilers as a jumping off point?

Based on his numbers this season with Calgary, Johnson has a pretty good case to to be in Talbot’s ballpark at the very least. Below is a comparison of Johnson’s first few months with the Flames and Talbot’s work with the Oilers prior to signing his extension.


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As you can see, Johnson’s numbers are superior across the board which makes a deal like Talbot’s very much a realistic proposition. That’s not a slight on Talbot, either, because he’s been crucial in Edmonton’s return to playoff contention this season. The more important point here is what Talbot’s measurables were prior to him signing an extension, because that’s where Johnson sits right now.

Conclusion

I think it’s too early to put pen to paper on a contract extension for Johnson right now. He’s started just 21 games with the Flames and, while he’s been very solid the last two years, I’d still like to see a larger body of work. That said, if Johnson is still playing hockey at this level into February and March, I’m probably ready to seal a deal somewhere in the range of those four goalies we looked at above.

It’s a pretty nice spot to be in if you’re Calgary. If Johnson keeps playing well and they sign him to, say, a three-year, $14 million extension, then the team has a solid, affordable option to buy time for Jon Gillies, Tyler Parsons, or someone else in the organization. If Johnson’s play falls off, or if the Flames want to chase someone like Ben Bishop in the offseason, then they have a goalie on an expiring contract who gave them a whale of a month to get them back into playoff contention.

  • RKD

    I want to see how Johnson plays in the second half, if he can keep it up or if his game falls back a bit. I would be more comfortable in the 3-4 year range. It seems like Johnson is in his prime right now so he still has a shot to have 3-4 more solid years. I think a 6 year deal like Dubynk has is excessive. Losing Johnson would be a big blow because the level of quality goaltending he has given has been top notch.

  • The GREAT WW

    Unrelated; Matt Duchene looks like he needs a change of scenery. The Avs may be looking to trade him. Good for 25-30 goals a year. Any interest?

    What would it cost?

    WW

    • Frank Miron

      Personally i would go with Landeskog instead of Duchene… less offensive talent but much more leadership and character, plus a Backlund-Landeskog duo would be great to see.

    • supra steve

      “What would [Matt Duchene] cost?”

      More than any of us want to pay, I should think. 25 (almost 26)yr old team Canada regular, C/LW, 50-70 points per season, 2 full seasons left at $6million AAV. Were I selling Duchene, I would certainly start out inquiring about Tkachuk or Bennett.

      • The GREAT WW

        You are probably right, I would not trade either at this point.

        But if the Avs are going full rebuild wouldn’t they want picks and prospects?

        Would you give up our 2017 first round pick (3x lottery protected) in a weak draft year?

        A prospect like Kylington, Anderson, Jankowski etc.

        or a scoring machine stud like BACKLUND?!

        WW

  • ComeOn

    Much too early, the only reason the optics of Eliot vs Johnson are what they are is that Eliot was left out to dry why the team learned the new system.

    I’m not taking anything away from Johnson’s play but lets see how it plays out over the majority of the rest of the regular season before we get locked in.

  • FL@med

    For Duchene I assume we would have to part ways with Bennett, a6th, and Kenney Morrison, for Duchene, and a first (Nolan Patrick?!?!) Not saying this what we should do, just what the Advocate Avalanche might be interested in…

  • freethe flames

    Brouwer broken finger required surgery, out week to week. Backlund bruised inner knee; day to day likely to play tomorrow.

    Johnson 3 x $3m at the most. As for a trade with the Av’s not at this time thank you.

  • Deef

    Don’t sign him for more than 3 years. We’ll have a shiny new Gillies or Parsons (or both?) ready to start by then. And dont give him more than 4 million per. He still hasn’t proven he deserves that kind of starting money.

    Also, I agree with the above, that we need to wait and see how this year plays out before we sign anyone back in the crease! Johnson could fall off… Elliot could bounce back… Bishop could be RFA available.

  • deantheraven

    If the plan is to re-sign Johnson, I hope he gets term (3-4years) and gives a hometown discount (3-4 mil).
    Both Gillies and Rittich have been above average this season in Stockton.
    Chad looks like he’d be good as 1A/1B with whoever makes it next year.The way Huska talks, Gillies would do well in a tandem with Johnson-similar styles, demeanor.
    Goalies don’t usually go at the trade deadline, but it would be sweet if Treliving could get picks or an untouchable (expansion draft) prospect for Elliot.
    Plus Chad seems like a great guy. I say sign him and trade or let Elliot go.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    3 years for $14M! Is Steinberg nutz? If Johnson is looking for that kind of dough, I hear the weather in Vladivostok is pretty nice this time of year.

    3 years for $9-10M tops. But no deal before the end of the season.

    Monahan for Duchene, one for one. Pure hockey trade involving two guys who might benefit from an address change.

    • Kevin R

      Agree about Johnson. No rush to resign & if we did, I think he should be the highest paid back up/1B in the league, but 3-4 years at 3.0 per is pretty fair.

      Not sure I would like the Monahan for Duschene deal. I would rather take Landeskog. If Monahan was in deal I would target Mackinnon & yes I know we would have to add.

      • supra steve

        I tend to agree that a high dollar multi year deal could be dangerous. Donnie Edwards. Roman Turek. Jose Theodore. Andrew Hammond. Sometimes a tender looks like a star for a prolonged period, then comes back down to earth, for whatever reason. I`d definitely wait till the end of the season to evaluate both Flame tenders and consider contract extensions.

        • My point isn’t what he is or isn’t, it’s more about what the market suggests. If they could get a deal like you suggest, that would be awesome. I just look at the comparables and wonder if he might be asking for more.

          And, as you say, if that’s the case, the Flames would have the option to walk away.

          • Burnward

            Isn’t a contract all about what a player is or isn’t?

            That’s a serious factor for any franchise about to shell out millions at the most important position.

          • piscera.infada

            Isn’t a contract all about what a player is or isn’t?

            Not really. I’m sure there was a time in the NHL’s history where that’s what it was, but since the inception of the salary cap (at the very least), it becomes moreso about what the market will bear. Now that cuts both ways. It’s the reason Chad Johnson might be worth ~$4 million per, and Gaudreau might only be worth ~$6.75 million per given their contractual statuses. It’s the job of a general manager to assess that value and decide whether it’s reasonable for his team.

            It seems there’s a certain lack of comprehension with regard to this article. Nowhere is Pat advocating “re-sign Chad Johnson”. In fact, I’m fairly certain he’s saying exactly what many have been echoing above–you likely need a larger body of work before you commit those resources and as such, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to make that decision at the earliest possible date (January 1, in this case).

            I took this article more as an argument that Johnson “might not be as cheap as many probably think he will be”. This is backed up by comments posted around hear during Chad’s hot streak that seemed to believe he could be re-signed as a starter for somewhere around $2.5-$3 million per. Pat has simply laid-out a pretty good case that given the market comparables, he’ll command more–unless he simply decides to take a massive hometown discount (which I wouldn’t make an assumption about). Sure, “[h]e’s a career backup in a hot spell. Might be legit, but who knows.[sic]”, but so was Cam Talbot until he wasn’t. Dubnyk was basically out of the league until he had a ludicrous 30-some game stretch. James Reimer, likewise hasn’t been more than a platoon guy. If those three are going to be within that market, what really makes Johnson any different? Chances are, someone will make that commitment if they need a goalie.

          • Kevin R

            Patty what is the market? Reimer had amazing stats as well & look at his contract. As soon as you start to ask for over 3.0 mill, GM’s have to decide that this guy is a #1. Do all GM’s have that confidence? I don’t think so. Really, until Johnson backstops a nice long playoff run,GM’s will be skeptical & apprehensive about giving him the big $$$.

            So who is in the market & who is he competing against. Let’s assume Johnson is signed at 4.5 mill but is left unprotected for Vegas, what goalies are available & does Vegas take them over Johnson? That might be a more relevant question. I don’t think we will need to pay Johnson that much & nothing wrong with us getting a great deal on him. If roles were reversed & Elliott was the one that went on that Johnson streak, because of his playoff experience, Elliott without a doubt would be in that 4.5-5.0 mill range. Just saying.

          • piscera.infada

            Patty what is the market? Reimer had amazing stats as well & look at his contract. As soon as you start to ask for over 3.0 mill, GM’s have to decide that this guy is a #1.

            Reimer’s cap-hit is $3.4 million per, so I’m not sure that makes your point. As the article states: Dubnyk makes $4.3 million per, Talbot makes $4.16 million per, and Jake Allen makes $4.3 million per. None of those 4 goalies have “backstopped a nice long playoff run”.

          • Kevin R

            Reimer was 27-28 years old, Johnson will be pushing 31. Also, what helped Reimers bump was Luongo was potentially out for an extended period of time after the year would have started. Reimer also sat on the market for quite some time before getting his contract.

            Duby was a Vezina candidate after his breakout year & I discard any Oiler signing at this point.
            Allen makes too much in my opinion, he hasn’t done nothing, so I would hope we don’t follow the same stupid signing path.

          • piscera.infada

            Again, the argument here is “what is Johnson worth in the market?”, not “what would I pay for him?”. The logic is simple, all those goalies including Johnson have similar situations leading up to a potential extension, and they all had similar numbers.

          • Kevin R

            Sorry, I don’t think it is so simple from a supply & demand point of view. I think Reimer’s number for 3 years is closer to reality. JMO we’ll find out soon enough.

      • BlueMoonNigel

        Johnson has been a career backup having never played more than 45 games a season. His next most games a season was 27. I expect he will play more than 27 this year, but 45? Not sure.

        Over his hoot streak his save percentage was .945 as you alluded to, but as his SV% for the year is .922, it means that in the other 8 games he played, his SV% is in the .800s. That is simply not good enough to be a starter in this league.

        He will be 31 when the 2017-18 season starts, already older than all your comparables.

        What about the Moose factor? He has had a tough first half, but with 3 wins in a row, who is to say that he won’t regain his form from previous years and reclaims the crease? A strong second half performance by Elliott will give the Flames a very attractive alternative should they want to consider extending either Johnson or Elliott.

        What will be the ripple effect of the expansion draft on goalies? We always hear about who teams will fire sale goalies rather than expose them and potentially lose them for nothing? As with any crisis comes opportunity. This is one of the reasons I wouldn’t extend Johnson or Elliott before the season is over.

        How NHL ready is Long Jon or any other Flames’ goaltending prospect? Paying Johnson north of $4M to be a backup in say the last 2 years of a 4 year deal would be bad business indeed.

        If not the Flames, where else in the NHL can Johnson go and get starter’s money for a minimum of 3 years?

        At the end of the day, however, your AAV of $4M will most likely be closer than my $3M because salaries are based on comparables. I am adamant, however, that no extension should be offered to Johnson or Elliott until late June.

    • Stu Cazz

      I like your numbers but it will not happen. It is market driven and he will get equivalent to the players Pat has mentioned. I would extend the term and bring the numbers down….4 years $15M….

    • piscera.infada

      Not what I was saying, and sorry for any offense taken (it was not intended).

      What I was trying to get at, is that the numbers Pat was come up with here are very reasonable. Like I said, there is a reasonable argument as to whether or not that makes sense for the Flames. The two however, are mutually exclusive. If the market dictates that he is worth more than the Flames should pay when everything is factored into the equation, then it’s incumbent on the Flames to say ‘no’. I agree with your assessment first and foremost, that the Flames should not run head-first into an extension with Johnson the minute that is available to them. The author concedes that point as well.

      • Burnward

        No worries! Just a friendly jab back 😉

        While I understand Pat’s numbers, they are nowhere near what I would pay at this point.

        If he truly usurps Elliot and leads them on a deep run, I could easily be swayed.

        But it’s all very much flavour of the month to me right now and I would be uncomfortable at that price point now.

        • piscera.infada

          I agree. I wouldn’t pay that much for Johnson, unless he proves over the remainder of the season to be worth it. The one thing I will say is that if the Flames believe Rittich could be a backup tender next season, it could be palatable at say $4.5 million per for 3 years.

          You could conceivably have a ‘tender/backup combo that add up to ~$5.5 million in cap-space next season (assuming a $1 million deal for Rittich). That gives Gillies another year in the AHL, but as an unquestioned starter. If he’s ready by 2018/19, then you platoon him with Johnson at probably another $5.5 million, and likewise through 2019/20. But yeah, this all hinges on if you think Johnson can be “the guy” for 55-60 games a year, and you think you have a 27-22 game backup in your system (which I’m not advocating they do).

          I am pretty much dogmatically against taking a run at a big price-tag goalie like Bishop in the offseason as well. So I think that informs my reality of the goaltending situation.