Marcus Johansson was back in Toronto for another arbitration hearing with the Washington Capitals, but this time he didn't have to go through with it.
Hours before Johansson and the Capitals were set to go to arbitration for the second time, they agreed on a $13.75-million, three-year deal. The 25-year-old Swedish forward will count $4.583-million against the salary cap, almost exactly between the two sides' arbitration asking prices but on a longer contract.
Johansson got as close as the entrance to the hotel where NHL arbitration cases are heard before the deal got done.
"I don't think anyone wants to go to arbitration. That's kind of a last resort," Johansson said on a conference call from Toronto on Wednesday. "It was a little tight schedule before the meeting, but I'm really happy that we worked it out."
Johansson will make $4.25-million next season and $4.75-million in 2017-18 and 2018-19 on a contract that's similar to the one former teammate Mathieu Perreault signed as a restricted free agent with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this summer.
The $4.583-million cap hit fits into Washington's off-season plan with one more restricted free agent left to sign in defenceman Dmitry Orlov. The Capitals won the Presidents' Trophy as the league's top regular-season team last season and will have almost the same group back to take another shot at the Stanley Cup next season.
"To be able to keep the team, it's hard," Johansson said. "It's hard for everyone. I'm just happy we were able to figure it out in the end. To be able to be part of this team for three more years, that's important to me. I think both parties are happy with it. There's obviously the cap in the NHL and they have to find a way to stay under it."
Johansson had 17 goals and 29 assists for 46 points in 74 games last season. In 419 regular-season NHL games, Johansson has 78 goals and 154 assists for 232 points and has added 22 points in the playoffs.
Under coach Barry Trotz, Johansson has developed his all-around game and improved his production by going to the net more.
"That's been a part of my game that I've been working on and trying to score more goals and get more pucks to the net," Johansson said. "You always want to be part of it and score goals. That's always a fun part. But as long as you feel you're improving on it and getting better, I think that's a sign that you're moving in the right direction."
Signing him for three years takes some of the mystery out of next summer, when the Capitals have forwards T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams and Daniel Winnik and defenceman Karl Alzner as unrestricted free agents and forwards Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky as restricted free agents.
This off-season, Washington acquired centre Lars Eller in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens and let long-time left winger Jason Chimera leave in free agency. Johansson said the Capitals continue to make moves to improve.
"Mac has done a great job getting us what we need," he said. "I think last year we showed that we're really contending. … This is a team and a group that I really think we can win with."