Marcus Johansson and Brad Marchand have some hatchet-burying to do.
Little more than one year after Marchand delivered an elbow to Johansson’s head, a blow for which the Bruins pesky winger was suspended five games, Boston has gone out and acquired the 28-year-old winger from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2019 second-round selection and a 2020 fourth-round pick. And now, about 13 months after the incident that resulted in Johansson’s second concussion in a short span, he and Marchand are teammates.
The Bruins, of course, will assume that the two players can be professionals about the whole thing, and there’s little reason to believe otherwise. Once the two shake hands and clear the air, too, they’ll hopefully put the incident behind them and Boston can move on knowing they’ve added a second piece to their offense ahead of the trade freeze, and a fairly nice one at that.
While by no stretch considered the top prize ahead of the deadline, there’s a lot to like about Johansson’s game and plenty of ways in which he can bring value to Boston. He has proven offensive capabilities, scoring 12 goals and 27 points in 48 games this season, which would be the equivalent of a 21-goal, 46-point output across a full 82-game slate. Adding production had to be a focus for the Bruins at the deadline, too, given that Boston’s attack has in no way kept pace with Atlantic Division rivals Tampa Bay and Toronto. The Lightning and Maple Leafs, with 239 and 216 goals for, respectively, boast the top and fourth-best offensive numbers in the NHL. The Bruins’ 183-goal output is tied for 15th.
As for a fit, Johansson is a no-brainer for the second line, especially once David Pastrnak returns from injury. There’s no breaking up the top unit of Pastrnak, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, but David Krejci could certainly use some additional offensive help on the second unit. Likely, Johansson will move onto the right side of Krejci’s line, with sophomore Jake DeBrusk manning the opposite wing. While it might not be the most menacing second line in the NHL, it’s an improvement over what Boston possessed entering the day.
Johansson can bring more to the table than offense, though. In fact, it’s his two-way acumen and all-around versatility that makes the acquisition all the more intriguing. Primarily, and especially across the past several seasons, Johansson has played on the wing, but he broke into the NHL as a pivot and can suit up down the middle in a pinch. His two-way game has also drawn some praise, and with good reason. Though he hasn’t won the award, he garnered some Selke Trophy attention during the 2016-17 season with the Washington Capitals. A multifaceted skillset would seem to make Johansson the perfect fit for a Bruins team that is heavy on substance over style.
The added benefit in making the move — and maybe waiting as long as they did before pulling the trigger — is that Boston has hardly mortgaged the future by moving out second- and fourth-round choices. While not the top prospect system in the NHL, the Bruins’ cupboard is well stocked and they didn’t need to move out any current roster players or mid-level prospects in order to make the Johansson deal happen. Meanwhile, the two picks give New Jersey a few extra shots in upcoming drafts, picks they’ll need as they build around a top-heavy organization centered on Taylor Hall.
On the whole, it’s a decent, though not exceptional return for the Devils and a safe move for the Bruins, one that can be successful given that Boston is an under-appreciated threat in the Eastern Conference that may have only been a few small pieces away from setting itself up for a quiet run.