BUFFALO – Sabres winger Marcus Johansson began his NHL career playing center. When the Washington Capitals needed help there three years ago, he briefly moved back.
So, yes, Johansson, 28, certainly has experience at the position. But the Swede has spent the bulk of his nine-year career skating at left wing.
The Sabres, who signed Johansson to a two-year, $9 million contract on Saturday, need more depth down the middle.
So what role might he play this upcoming season?
“We didn’t really discuss that too much,” Johansson said on a conference call this morning. “I think wherever I can help and play I’m here for it and whatever they need me to do. I’ve played both. I’ve played mostly left wing over the last however many years, but whatever they need me to do I’m up for it.”
Still, if the Sabres didn’t discuss shifting Johansson back to center while wooing him as a free agent, it seems unlikely they would, at least early on.
Right now, the Sabres have a surfeit of left wingers expected to produce offense. In addition to Johansson, Victor Olofsson, Conor Sheary, Jeff Skinner and Jimmy Vesey also play the position.
Someone – perhaps Sheary or Vesey – will have to move.
Johansson might slot in nicely on the Sabres’ second line. After a rough 2017-18 season in which concussions limited him to only 29 games with the New Jersey Devils, he enjoyed a strong comeback campaign.
In 58 regular-season games with New Jersey and the Boston Bruins, Johansson compiled 13 goals and 30 points. He enjoyed regular duty during the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup final, scoring four goals and 11 points in 22 outings.
Johansson, who was traded to Boston on Feb. 25, said his New Jersey tenure “didn’t go as planned.”
“I was hurt a lot, kind of unfortunate,” he said. “But once I was healthy, I felt it went well. But I kind of found myself as a player, too, and got some of the results with that in Boston, I guess.”
Johansson said he chose the Sabres because he spoke to general manager Jason Botterill and coach Ralph Krueger and likes “what Buffalo’s got going.”
“Talking to Ralph, he’s got some really good ideas on how to play, and it’s a really young and exciting team,” Johansson said. “I’m looking forward to it.”