Any time Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson are manning the blue line together, the latter will likely see a small change to his well-established jersey - the letter ‘E’ to differentiate.
Erik Johnson said he’s known Jack Johnson, a fellow American defenseman, since Erik was about 16. Since then Erik has enjoyed some stability as the Avalanche’s longest-tenured player - he’s been with the club since 2011. Jack spent six seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets but split the past three between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers, then found himself in Avalanche training camp on a professional tryout.
Artem Anisimov, Johnson’s teammate in Columbus who also joined Avalanche training camp on a professional tryout contract, was released. Jack Johnson, meanwhile, finally got a text from his agent saying the Avalanche wanted “to move forward.” He signed a one-year, $750,000 contract.
“I'm really happy for him that it worked out,” Erik said. “I’m happy to see him kind of have a home base and get signed. It's gotta be an uneasy feeling to be in limbo like that so I’m happy he has some stability.”
Devon Toews participated in drills wearing a red non-contact jersey Monday following offseason shoulder surgery. Colorado had enough NHL-tested defensemen to roll out even without him. The front office secured Johnson’s services anyway.
The 34-year-old defenseman said he considered retirement if the tryout with the Avalanche didn’t result in a contract.
“Was prepared to say I took a crack at it,” Johnson said.
“If this wasn’t going to work out, I knew that was on the table.”
His decision paid off, though his role going forward is unclear. The wait-and-see approach has worked so far.
“I don’t think anyone comes in just wanting to be a depth player. I want to play, obviously,” Johnson said. “But I’m going to do whatever they need me to do, whatever role they see fit.”
His family, for now, will remain in Columbus. He has the keys to a new place and is working on acquiring furniture.
“Piece together my life here real quick,” he said.
Notes: D Justin Barron and F Mikhail Maltsev were reassigned to the Colorado Eagles (AHL). D Jacob MacDonald was placed on waivers and subsequently cleared. Toews will begin the season as injured/non-roster.