A backup netminder in the National Hockey League may be one of, if not the most underrated and most definitely unappreciated positions in all of sports. The Boston Bruins had one of the best in the business this past season and may soon find out just how valuable Chad Johnson was to the team.
The Bruins inked goaltender Niklas Svedberg to a one-year, one way contract on Monday which sent Johnson — an unrestricted free agent — looking for employment elsewhere.
Svedberg, 24, appeared in just one game for the Bruins last year — a 3-2 OT win over the Nashville Predators. The Swedish goalie compiled a 25-14-4 record with a 2.63 goals against average for the Providence Bruins last season.
Johnson, on the other hand, played a vital role in the Bruins’ second half surge to the top of the Eastern Conference standings en route to capturing the President’s Trophy. As the backup to Vezina Award winner Tuukka Rask, Johnson posted a 17-4-3 record between the pipes last season with a 2.10 GAA and a .925 save percentage.
With the signing of Svedberg, it didn’t take Johnson long to determine his time with the Bruins was over.
“It’s unfortunate for me because I love everything about Boston and the Bruins,” Johnson told the Boston Globe via text on Tuesday. “With how tight the (salary) cap is in Boston as well as what the goalie market for a guy like myself is nothing really could work out.”
Johnson, 28, finally found his niche in his one season with the Bruins after nine lackluster seasons prior. Rask’s backup gave the Bruins a shot of adrenaline midway through the season when Rask suffered through a rare bad stretch of games. Johnson’s stellar play in net allowed Bruins head coach Claude Julien to give Rask some extra time off and the Bruins did not seem to miss a beat with Johnson in goal.
Johnson’s exit was handled with class from a guy who could have felt disrespected with the move.
“Professionally this was my first real opportunity in the NHL so I had a lot to prove,” Johnson wrote the Boston media in an email. “It was a big test for me and a challenge…being around a great group of players, coaches and fans on a daily basis gives me so much experience that will only be positive moving forward.”
With the Bruins handing the spare set of keys to the club to Svedberg the workload of Rask may have just increased. Sure the 24-year old Swede makes more sense as the long-term solution as reserve goalie but just how much confidence with Julien and the Bruins have in him as the grind of the NHL season wears on the later months next season?
But then again Johnson entered the Bruins camp last season as an unproven veteran backup and that gamble turned into a pretty good reward. Maybe the Bruins rolling the dice on Svedberg will also pay huge dividends. Only time will tell…
Travis David is a Boston Bruins contributor for iSportsweb and is a credentialed member of the Boston Bruins media website. You can follow him on Twitter @Tdavid_21