In what could potentially be seen as a surprise move, this afternoon the Predators announced that defenseman Aaron Johnson has signed a one year, two-way deal Nashville. The 27-year old Nova Scotia native split last season between Calgary and Edmonton, playing 41 games in the NHL. If Johnson plays for the Preds, his contract is worth $550, 000, otherwise he;ll get $105, 000 at the AHL level in Milwaukee.
Despite his relative youth, Johnson has already made his way around the league. In addition to playing with the Flames and Oilers, Johnson spent time with Chicago, the Islanders and Columbus, the team that originally drafted him 85th overall in 2001.
In 225 NHL games, Johnson has accumulated 46 points so he isn’t an offensive threat, but will this signing have any impact on the Franson negotiations? Franson is more of an offensive threat on the back end who would likely see more time on the powerplay again this season. The B.C. native is also someone fans want to see back in the Predators fold come this October. However, with training just two weeks away, is this a sign that the Predators are beginning to look elsewhere to fill out its roster at defense?
At least the contract is a two-way deal. It would have been shocking for the Predators to sign another defenseman to a one-way contract with Weber, Suter, Bouillon, Parent, Klein, and Sulzer already on one-way deals. If the Franson contract gets done, it will too likely be a one-way contract, meaning 7 d-men will be on one-ways. In fact, it could be the case (and this is 100% speculation) that maybe contract talks between the Preds and Franson have gone so slowly because the team wants to sign him to a two-day deal and he’s holding out. It wouldn’t be the first time a player wouldn’t sign because of the direction of the contract.
But for Johnson to sign with a team that is already stacked at the back end of the rink, with many prospects waiting in the wings to make it to Nashville (read: Jonathon Blum, Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi to name the obvious bunch), he still must think there is a reasonable shot at making the team out of camp. For the rest of us, this is probably just a depth move with Johnson spending a lot of time traveling the road between Wisconsin and Tennessee.
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