UFA Decisions: Aaron Johnson

Jonathan Willis
May 07 2010 01:10PM

Edmonton Oilers v Toronto Maple Leafs 

UFA Decisions considers the unrestricted free agents on the Oilers’ roster, starting with the most expensive and working down. Today we consider Aaron Johnson.

Aaron Johnson has had a nomadic start to a career that will likely continue in the same vein. He was originally a third round pick by Columbus, but he has also had stints with the Islanders, Blackhawks, Flames and Rangers.

Johnson was drafted out of the QMJHL, where he spent four seasons before making the jump to the professional level. Back in his draft year, there was a lot to like; he brought fair size to the table along with a willingness to play a rough game and he was an effective if unconventional skater. He also possessed intriguing offensive upside; he scored 53 points in his draft year and would eclipse the point-per-game mark before leaving junior. He also had drawbacks: his defensive zone coverage was not especially good and he could get caught chasing the puck.

Johnson made his NHL debut just before the lockout, and served the Blue Jackets as a reserve defenceman before establishing himself as a regular in 2006-07. He’s a solid third-pairing guy; he passes the puck well enough and his weaknesses aren’t exposed as long as his minutes and opponents are managed. During his brief post-deadline stint with the Oilers, he was asked to step into a more difficult role and the results were uneven – the offensive flair was there but it was easy to see the defensive struggles that have made him a journeyman.

Still, as I said, used in a limited role Johnson can be an asset. Chicago used him sparingly last season with good results, and he’s actually a plus-13 over his NHL career, which is a very respectable number for someone who has spent most of his NHL minutes as a bottom-pairing defenceman on bottom-feeding teams (aside from that one season in Chicago, Johnson has never played for a playoff team).

Johnson would undoubtedly be cheap to acquire; I imagine that an NHL-only contract at league-minimum would be enough to keep him in the fold. Last season, he was paid $500,000 and it was the first season of his career where he didn’t at least dip his toes in minor-league play.

What I’d Do As G.M.

I’m not wild about Johnson as a player; he’s now 27 and he hasn’t been able to file off the rough edges enough to deserve elevated ice-time with an NHL club. If he were able to do so, he might be a very useful asset – with increased ice-time, he could put up significant point totals for a defenceman.

That said, while I may not harbour much hope that Johnson can develop into the top-four defenceman, he’s a perfectly acceptable bottom-pairing player. He’s dirt cheap, and he’s better at the on-ice components of the job than either Jason Strudwick or the AHL players called up to fill out the roster next year.

In short, I might look around and see if there were other bottom-pairing guys more appealing, but if Johnson were willing to sign on for a league-minimum contract in exchange for a one-way deal, I’d gladly slot him into the number seven position on the depth chart. This would allow players like Peckham and Chorney to return to the AHL to start next season (given the way injuries work, at least one of them would be up in short order anyway) and give the Oilers a seventh man they could be comfortable seeing in a five or six role when the inevitable injuries hit.

What I Expect To Happen

It’s very difficult to know how the Oilers view Johnson; I haven’t seen much published either way, although there were a few positive articles early after he was acquired.

I expect Tambellini sees Johnson as an expendable part, and I suspect the Oilers will decide to keep Jason Strudwick around as seventh defenceman, and allow Johnson to go to free agency.

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
Avatar
#1 Matt Henderson
May 07 2010, 01:18PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Keep him. It would be a mistake to take Strudwick over Johnson.

Avatar
#2 Scott in Grande Prairie
May 07 2010, 01:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I thought Johnson played reasonably well after he was acquired and I think there's a pretty good case to keep him.

That said, I had no idea he'd bounced around so much - six teams since 2006 (!!!). That doesn't necessarily mean he's a bad player, but it does ring an alarm bell. Zero upside, perhaps?

Avatar
#3 Jeff
May 07 2010, 01:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Good ole cape Breton boy

Avatar
#4 Moop
May 07 2010, 01:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Matt Henderson wrote:

Keep him. It would be a mistake to take Strudwick over Johnson.

I agree, but judging from some of the rumblings coming from Matheson and others, it looks like the organization is planning on bringing Strudwick back anyway.

Avatar
#5 David Staples
May 07 2010, 01:33PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

I'd keep him, too, JW, but I wonder if Peckham must clear waivers go to minors.

I'm even less expert at waivers rules than the Oilers, but if Peckham must clear waivers, I'd keep him in Edmonton over Johnson.

Avatar
#6 Oil_Loc8or
May 07 2010, 01:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Scott in Grande Prairie

Agree . Zero, none, zilch.

Avatar
#7 I'm a Scientist!
May 07 2010, 01:36PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

After being on so many teams i think he might flourish if given a bit of job security. I say sign him.

Also, our AHL depth is about as pretty as Lohan after a major bender... she looks good when she is clean and sober, but once she pukes on your shoes, you have to be mighty desparate to give her a ride. That being said...i still would. Maybe not the best example. Damn.

Avatar
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

I just took a quick glance at the CBA, and the way I read it Peckham gets four years of waiver exemption because he signed his first NHL contract at age 19; that clock started ticking during his first professional season (2007-08) and three seasons are gone, meaning he has one season of waiver exemption remaining.

I may be wrong on that - I'm no CBA expert - but that's how I read it.

That's the way I read it when I looked a few weeks back.

Avatar
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

As for Johnson, I bring him back. Even if can't make the team then send him to the AHL. I'd prefer to see him up in the NHL and Peckham/Chorney developing in the AHL.

Avatar
#13 Dan the Man
May 07 2010, 02:37PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I'd keep Johnson over Strudwick if it comes down to that. He's cheaper and seems to be a bit better as well.

I would also say that given Johnson's age he is still on the upside of his career while Strudwick is on the downside.

Strudwick is a great guy according to just about everyone and it really sounds like he will be an Oiler again next year.

Avatar
#14 speeds
May 07 2010, 02:40PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

JW, pretty sure Peckham has to clear waivers if he signed at 19. I'd have to go back to those epic threads of last summer, but as I recall Schremp also signed at 19, went back to junior for a year, then played 3 years in the AHL. Schremp obviously had to clear waivers this past fall.

Avatar
#15 Ducey
May 07 2010, 02:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I don't see how Johnson is better than Strudwick or even Chorney.

Based on 5 x5 advanced +/- stats Strudwick is way ahead of Johnson and Chorney but Chorney started 65% of his shifts in the defensive zone. (Johnson 55%)

Johnson seems better than Struds on special teams but presumably you don't want to have your 6/7 defenceman of for these.

I don't see anything that makes me want to keep Johnson. He is cheap but one of the worst d- men on the worst team. There has to be a dozen guys out there who could do a better job at the same price.

Avatar
#16 speeds
May 07 2010, 02:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

JW:

I might have been incorrect here JW, I didn't realize Peckham was in the Sept 16-Dec 31 window that sometimes confuses me. I'd have to re-read the CBA section, but I think Peckham might have signed at age 20, given the CBA age definition for 20 year olds in that section.

Schremp signed at 19, one year post draft, but was ineligible to play in the AHL the next season due to his birthday.

Peckham also signed one year post draft, but because of his birthdate was AHL eligible the second year post draft, when Schremp had to go back to junior. That may mean that Peckham has another year before having to clear waivers, but I'd have to check the age definition again, as you know it isn't the same in all CBA sections.

Avatar
#17 Lofty
May 07 2010, 03:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

It pains me to watch Strudwick, his foot speed makes him a liability every time he hits the ice. He isnt very good at being a shutdown guy and he brings nothing to the table offensivly.

Johnson's a sold and cheap 6th or 7th D-man that contributes offensivly and can play in the corners well... condsidering his pay grade.

Avatar
#18 Racki
May 07 2010, 03:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I would heavily lean towards Johnson over Strudwick if we were picking based on ability on the ice. However, as Jason Gregor pointed out, the Oilers are very big on Strudwick because of his leadership ability and interaction with the kids. So I'd say we'll see him back. And really, I can't see it being Johnson and Strudwick both playing here. I think it's one or the other. So unfortunately I guess we lose Johnson, which is too bad... I thought he played quite well here.

Avatar
#20 Quicksilver ballet
May 07 2010, 03:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

He'd be on my team. I'd even give him two years.....keep Strudwick as well. Hopefully some of these other kids we're waiting on will be ready within the next couple seasons.

Avatar
#22 TigerUnderGlass
May 07 2010, 03:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

From the notes in s.13.4

"For purposes of this Article, "age 18" means a Player reaching his eighteenth birthday between January 1 next preceding the Entry Draft and September 15 next following the Entry Draft, both dates included; "age 19" means a Player reaching his nineteenth birthday in the calendar year of the Entry Draft; "age 20" means a Player reaching his twentieth birthday in the calendar year of the Entry Draft; and "age 21" means a Player reaching his twenty-first birthday in the calendar year of the Entry Draft."

This seems to suggest he was 20.

Also from the same section:

"The first season in which a Player who is age 20 or older plays in one (1) or more Professional Games shall constitute the first year for calculating the number of years he is exempt from Regular Waivers and Re-Entry Waivers."

This seems to be saying he is waiver eligible.

Avatar
#23 Ducey
May 07 2010, 04:29PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Jonathan Willis

Willis,

If we are getting into a battle of who "saw him good" I would say that Johnson started off hot in Oilers silks but tailed off quite a bit near the end of the year - while Chorney improved.

Chorney still sucked but at least he has some upside which may reveal itself with more time in the minors.

Struds is nothing to write home about but the difference between him and Johnson isn't that great. Johnson's full season numbers benefit from his time in Calgary (22 games). He was -6 in 19 games with the Oilers. Thats a marvellous -24 for a full season.

If you have #'s that show Strudwick is way worse than Johnson lets see them. And don't cherry pick crap from two years ago. Look at the whole picture and I bet when you look you will see that that the difference between the two aint much and if anything it favours Struds.

Johnson just isn't a guy to keep around. He is at best a journeyman tweener. Throw him in the minors if you want but there have to be better 6/7 dmen around than him.

This notion that the Oilers have to recycle the same guys year after year is silly. They were 30th! Get some players that are not being given a chance on a deep roster, take a guy from the AHL who has no upside but is solid, go to Europe and grab a Hejda type. Just don't go into the season with a moop like Johnson and expect it to turn out different.

Avatar
#24 Oil_Loc8or
May 07 2010, 05:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I think Johnson may have looked good since he was playing minutes he would normally never play. He is at best a 8th dman in the NHL. Very little up side in my opinion

Avatar
#27 Oil_Loc8or
May 07 2010, 06:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Can't the Oilers get a 3rd pair dman for cheap ? I like Jason's drive and leadership but can't handle watching players beat him on the outside every time. Far too slow for the show.

But really do we have any good dman ? I like Smid but other then that it looks brutal. Gilbert and Whitney played well together but 19 games isn't a season. Gilbert is so weak in front of the net and along the boards.

I think the defence is the Oilers weakest point. Then no grit.

Avatar
#28 RossCreekNation
May 07 2010, 06:32PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
David Staples wrote:

I'd keep him, too, JW, but I wonder if Peckham must clear waivers go to minors.

I'm even less expert at waivers rules than the Oilers, but if Peckham must clear waivers, I'd keep him in Edmonton over Johnson.

Another muck-up by Oilers management...

http://thepipelineshow.blogspot.com/2010/05/hartikainen-deadline-flip-flops.html

#Ricky-O-needs-to-go

Avatar
#29 Oil_Loc8or
May 07 2010, 06:38PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@RossCreekNation

When will you be offically a oiler fan ? Before or after the draft?

Avatar
#30 RossCreekNation
May 07 2010, 06:53PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Oil_Loc8or

Umm... why's that, Ryan-come-lately?

Avatar
#32 Oil_Loc8or
May 07 2010, 07:55PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

With 'super-star' young prospects/players in the NHL (Stamkos, Toews) do you think there will be fans from both Canada and the US cheering for Hall and Seguin all the while jumping on the Oilers bandwagon?

I liken this to playoff hockey where Oilers fans cheer for other teams.

However, my only question is that at what point do you become a 'full-fledged' fan...?

Is it fair to be a 'die-hard' fan for one team and yet still be able to set that aside and cheer for another team in the playoffs?

I give myself props just cause I can..!

Avatar
#33 Reagan
May 07 2010, 08:43PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

I liked his game. I hope the Oilers give this guy another shot.

Avatar
#34 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
May 07 2010, 08:45PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Ducey wrote:

I don't see how Johnson is better than Strudwick or even Chorney.

Based on 5 x5 advanced +/- stats Strudwick is way ahead of Johnson and Chorney but Chorney started 65% of his shifts in the defensive zone. (Johnson 55%)

Johnson seems better than Struds on special teams but presumably you don't want to have your 6/7 defenceman of for these.

I don't see anything that makes me want to keep Johnson. He is cheap but one of the worst d- men on the worst team. There has to be a dozen guys out there who could do a better job at the same price.

I'm a numbers guy at heart, but this repeated theme of picking a team based on 5 on 5 +/- stat is ridiculous.

Avatar
#35 Pajamah
May 07 2010, 10:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

You know what Willis always says...

"Corsi wins championships"

... Oh right, no one says that, because that's retarded

Avatar
#36 Zamboni Driver
May 07 2010, 11:14PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

My opinion on Aaron Johnson.

Honest to god....

Who the hell is Aaron Johnson?

Avatar
#37 misfit
May 08 2010, 12:31AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Johnson can be a perfectly serviceable 3rd pairing defenseman. The problem is, we're probably going to be having a rookie D-man on that 3rd pairing, and I'm not sure I like Johnson enough to have in a mentoring role. On this team, I'd keep him, but only as the 7th defenseman.

Avatar
#38 jeanshorts
May 08 2010, 03:06AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers

This has nothing to do with anything, but, living here in Canuck land all I can say is;

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

GO HAWKS!!!!!!

The bandwagon is emptying faster than that Titanic and I love every minute of it.

Avatar
#39 Oil_Loc8or
May 08 2010, 09:44AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@jeanshorts

Lol, it's so true

Avatar
#41 Pajamah
May 08 2010, 11:32AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

You know what?

I'd never, ever thought of that expression before you said it, but it turns out to be less retarded than you might think.

I don't know how to say this correctly, but i'll do my damndest (damnedest?)

Teams that are better than there opposition as an average, get more shots.

I was, quite obviously, being facetious. But better statistics are generally the sign of being a better team. I'm not a stats guy, and thats why I love Colorado taking SJ to six games, though they had no business being anything other than swept in 4 games.

My comment, and yours by proxy, is like saying the best teams win championships, which is as obvious as a punch in the face.

Theses teams arent the best because they have the best statistics, they have the best statistics, because they are the best teams.

The best team always wins in the end, because if youre the only team left, you've been better than everyone else. Statistics can never show that. Only championships can

Avatar
#43 KenMcC
May 08 2010, 12:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Lofty

AGREED!! However, the overriding criteria that sTammerini will use to rebuild this team, redo the culture, and increase the compete level is:

WE WANT PLAYERS WHO ARE TEAM FIRST, WHO DON'T CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH STATS (and in fact don't really even look at score, so long as they profess their own "accountability"), are not skill players who coincidentally aren't the true "best" players, who'd spend their free time praying the the Oilers will extend their contract for multiple years, who'd never be caught uttering a desire to play on a succesful team, and is willing to play any position from 1st line power play to wing to defense to centre, to leading the group in a round of CoomByaah, who put their job in the dressing room ahead of anything, and who above all embody a "real Oiler".

Based on that criteria Steve Tamby's dream team consists of: strudwick pisanni reddox Toby Peterson horcoff dubnyk horcoff horcoff (that's one horcoff for each of the top 3 lines)

joey moss chorney Kelly buchberger ( out of retirement) habby

Avatar
#44 Lofty
May 08 2010, 02:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
KenMcC wrote:

AGREED!! However, the overriding criteria that sTammerini will use to rebuild this team, redo the culture, and increase the compete level is:

WE WANT PLAYERS WHO ARE TEAM FIRST, WHO DON'T CONCERN THEMSELVES WITH STATS (and in fact don't really even look at score, so long as they profess their own "accountability"), are not skill players who coincidentally aren't the true "best" players, who'd spend their free time praying the the Oilers will extend their contract for multiple years, who'd never be caught uttering a desire to play on a succesful team, and is willing to play any position from 1st line power play to wing to defense to centre, to leading the group in a round of CoomByaah, who put their job in the dressing room ahead of anything, and who above all embody a "real Oiler".

Based on that criteria Steve Tamby's dream team consists of: strudwick pisanni reddox Toby Peterson horcoff dubnyk horcoff horcoff (that's one horcoff for each of the top 3 lines)

joey moss chorney Kelly buchberger ( out of retirement) habby

There would definetly be no room for Hemsky on that team.

Is it bad that I dont care what the players do off the ice?

Avatar
#45 Pajamah
May 08 2010, 06:30PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Pajamah:

I found myself agreeing with some of what you said, then veering off sharply at the end.

Over a seven game series, there are plenty of examples where the best team doesn't win.

Consider a hypothetical with me: two teams are almost identical in talent. Team A is slightly better than Team B, enough so that 60% of the time they'll win four of seven games. The series is knotted at three games each, and Team B gets two bounces in Game Seven that go in the net. Is that a realistic scenario? I think it is.

Chance is a part of every series; goalies get hot, penalties get missed, pucks bounce off skates and off boards, players get hurt, and on and on it goes.

Another example - the 2005-06 Red Wings were a better team than the 2005-06 Oilers, even allowing for the Roloson upgrade, but Edmonton won in six. Both good teams, but if we ran that series 1000 times I'd bet heavy money on the Red Wings winning more than half of them.

The best team doesn't always win. Over four rounds, only good teams win, but a good team can beat a better team with just a little bit of luck.

It's tough to say. With Samsonov, Spacek, Peca, Pronger and Roloson hitting their stride, plus the 2005 team, you'd have to think we were comparable in terms of immeasurable talent, and statistics.

If the Oilers win the cup that year, can it not be argued that they were the best team? Regardless of what the boxcars say.

I'm not going to lie, all you quote, unquote "stats guys" use tangible information or what most believe to be conclusive evidence to support your opinions, but in the end, the game is played almost in spite of numerical probability.

I live by "Thats why they play the game"

if better stats meant better teams 100% of the time, sports wouldn't be a trillion dollar industry world wide. No parity, no intrigue. That's why there are as many people who hate the Yankees, Man U, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Redwings as there are fans.

Avatar
#46 Oil_Loc8or
May 09 2010, 09:23AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Posted on wrong page

Avatar
#47 hockeynut
May 10 2010, 04:18AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

i read ur negative comments regarding aaron johnson,u couldn't be more wrong.1st he was drafted by columbus for his offensive ability and they tried to make a defensive defensemen out of him.(let him play what he was drafted for)he had a few unlucky injuries .when he was with chicago(ask Habby)he was leading the league +19 when he got injured and when he came back he made a booboo against St louis and coach Q benched him while matt walker screwed up alot and it didn't seam to make a difference.You watch if Renny and Quinn will get the most out of him and he'll play to his real ability.Plus Don Cherry loves him and if Don loves a Caper boy he must be half decient.

Avatar
#48 Rocco
May 10 2010, 06:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

i'd re-sign Johnson. he was useful this past year, has good size, and is physical enough. good stop-gap d-man until the kids are ready.

Avatar
#49 hockeynut
May 11 2010, 03:40AM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

1 question?i heard that tambellini was looking to sign kovalchuk to have on a line with hemsky.True or False?remember that sourey is not coming back.

Comments are closed for this article.