Jack Johnson signs 7-year extension
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson signed a seven-year, $30.5 million contract extension Saturday morning, then went out and matched his season high with three assists in a 6-4 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Staples Center.
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Johnson's deal, which was announced shortly after the game, matches the second longest in franchise history. Anze Kopitar signed a seven-year extension prior to the 2008-09 season, 20 years after Wayne Gretzky signed an eight-year deal.
Johnson said he has been working on an extension since October. Although he has gone through stretches of poor play this season, Johnson said the contract talks were never a factor.
"It was actually kind of fun," he said of the negotiations. "It wasn't any burden at all. Go out and play hockey every night and try to play well and everything else will take care of itself."
Johnson, a Michigan native who will turn 24 on Thursday, is in his fifth season with the Kings. He was the third overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005, but opted to enroll at Michigan. After his freshman season, his rights were traded to the Kings. Johnson played one more season for the Wolverines then signed an entry-level contract with Los Angeles in March 2007.
He set career highs with eight goals and 28 assists last season, but is on pace to shatter his career assist mark, bringing his point total to 27 after the Columbus win.
"He's a young guy that's going to be a great player in this game for a long time," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Those young defenseman are very hard to find, the guys with skill and talent."
The Kings are reportedly working on an extension with fellow defenseman Drew Doughty as well. Doughty, 21, was a finalist last season for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's best defenseman.
"I'm hoping that he and Drew Doughty can end up being the anchors of this blue core for a long time," Murray said.
The Kings have been successful in locking up their young talent with long-term deals. Following his second full season with the Kings, they signed right wing Dustin Brown to a six-year extension in October 2007. They also signed goalkeeper Jonathan Quick to a three-year extension in October 2009.
One of Johnson's biggest assets is his offensive abilities, particularly on the power play. He came into the Columbus game fourth in the NHL with 16 power-play assists and tied for seventh with 19 power-play points.
He assisted on a man-advantage goal by defenseman Alec Martinez in the first period, then added another helper on Jarret Stoll's short-handed goal, which gave the Kings a 4-0 lead midway through the second period.
After the Blue Jackets cut the deficit to 5-4 with 2 ½ minutes remaining, Johnson helped seal the victory when he assisted on an empty-net goal by Justin Williams with 30 seconds left.
Dan Arritt writes for the L.A. Kings blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com.