John­son ready to be­gin next chap­ter of ca­reer

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - WES GILBERTSON wgilbert­son@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/WesGil­bert­son

The spec­u­la­tion started al­most as soon as the trade was made of­fi­cial.

The Cal­gary Flames shipped home­grown goalie Chad John­son to the Ari­zona Coy­otes in Satur­day’s swap for Mike Smith, but some im­me­di­ately won­dered if John­son could cir­cle back to the Sad­dle­dome in a cou­ple of weeks as an un­re­stricted free agent.

The des­ti­na­tion would cer­tainly be ap­peal­ing.

The job de­scrip­tion — another sea­son as a backup net­min­der, with Smith now the go-to guy — might not.

“I’m ob­vi­ously Ari­zona’s prop­erty right now, but I don’t think a door is ever closed on any sit­u­a­tion,” said John­son, choos­ing his words care­fully. “Ob­vi­ously, there is a spot to be filled in Phoenix now that Mike Smith is gone and if a con­tract can be worked out, then that’s the case.

“For me, I want to have a big role on a team. I know I can do that when I’m given an op­por­tu­nity and a fair chance to do that dur­ing a sea­son. So that’s sort of my fo­cus — to be able to be a part of a team that wants that and al­lows me to do that, to be a big part of a team and to help an or­ga­ni­za­tion make the play­offs and get far in play­offs. That’s where my mind is.

“I’ve had a great ex­pe­ri­ence in Cal­gary. I’m from Cal­gary. But I also know my ca­reer is short and I know my abil­i­ties and I want to be able to re­ally reach that po­ten­tial.”

John­son was in­cluded on Ari­zona’s pro­tected list for the ex­pan­sion draft, but it re­mains to be seen if the 31-year-old was sim­ply a trade throw-in or if he’ll be part of the puck-stop­ping plan for the Coy­otes next sea­son.

The re­turn for Smith also in­cluded the rights to un­signed de­fence prospect Bran­don Hickey — the 21-year-old will cap­tain the Bos­ton Univer­sity Ter­ri­ers as a col­lege se­nior — and a con­di­tional third-round se­lec­tion in the 2018 NHL Draft. If the Flames punch a play­off ticket, the con­di­tional pick be­comes a sec­ond-rounder.

John­son signed a one-year, US$1.7-mil­lion con­tract with his home­town team on July 1 of last year and posted an 18-15-1 record, 2.59 goals-against av­er­age and .910 save per­cent­age this past win­ter.

He keyed the Flames’ fall turn­around with 11 vic­to­ries dur­ing a daz­zling four-week stretch but made only six starts af­ter the al­ls­tar break.

“When I look at it, I think the first part of the sea­son, I think I had two bad games. And then the sec­ond half, again, I think I had two bad games and that was kind of the end of my run there,” John­son said. “I think over­all, for my­self, it was a suc­cess. And from a team stand­point, we made play­offs and that was a goal go­ing into the sea­son. I would have loved to have been in a big­ger role there, con­tin­ued through­out the sec­ond half, but the team re­ally came to­gether in the sec­ond half and Ells (Brian El­liott) played re­ally well, too, and then your role kind of changes be­cause of that. That hap­pens, and that’s part of the game.

“And I look at it as a real good op­por­tu­nity to be a part of the com­mu­nity as well, look­ing out­side of hockey. To have my family at games and be­ing in­volved in the com­mu­nity and giv­ing back, it was awe­some. A re­ally, re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Per­haps, though, a one-and­done for the lo­cal lad.

John­son was talk­ing con­tract with the Flames be­fore be­ing in­cluded in Satur­day’s trade and with Cal­gary’s gen­eral man­ager, Brad Tre­liv­ing, likely shop­ping for an ex­pe­ri­enced side­kick to Smith, it would be crazy to com­pletely rule out a re­u­nion.

How­ever, John­son is hop­ing for a crease to call his own, whether that’s in Ari­zona — “Right now, we’re just sort­ing through all the dif­fer­ent op­tions,” Coy­otes gen­eral man­ager John Chayka told the Ari­zona Repub­lic — or else­where.

“I feel like I’m ready for that next step, to play more games,” said John­son, who logged a ca­reer-high 45 crease-calls for the Buf­falo Sabres in 2015-16. “I think I can bring that con­sis­tency to a team in more of a ma­jor role than just 30 games a year or 20 games a year. I think I’ve proven I can be the best or one of the best guys in that role, play­ing 30, and I think I’ve proven I can play 40-plus games or 50 games a year, too.

“I feel like I’m ready but at the end of the day, you just have to have some­one give you that op­por­tu­nity. I look around the league and there are al­ways other peo­ple you look at go­ing, ‘Why him? What did he do? How did he get that op­por­tu­nity off what he’s done?’

“That’s one thing that I’ve learned is you can’t worry about that. You just have to worry about get­ting bet­ter and hope­fully I’ll get an op­por­tu­nity to help a team be bet­ter.”

AL CHAREST

Free-agent goal­tender Chad John­son says he is not rul­ing out a re­turn to his home­town team, the Cal­gary Flames, af­ter his rights were traded to Ari­zona in re­turn for fel­low goal­tender Mike Smith.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.