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Nashville Predators sign defenseman Aaron Johnson

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The Nashville Predators announced today that they've signed Aaron Johnson to bolster their defensive depth. Having already played for five NHL franchises during six seasons, I think we can comfortably apply the "journeyman" label here.

Aaron Johnson




Apr 30, 1983

Follow after the jump for a scouting report, analysis from an Edmonton blogger and the Predators' press release...

First off, here's the skinny on Johnson:

  • Has offensive instincts and the ability to play forward if required. Is a big man with good skating prowess.
  • Isn't nearly polished enough in the defensive zone to log big minutes. Consistency has eluded him at the highest level.
Career Potential
  • Useful depth defenseman.

Tom Callahan wondered on Twitter if this puts pressure on Cody Franson to sign a deal soon, to which I would say only if the Preds projected Kevin Klein as moving into more of an offensive role, with Johnson working the 3rd pair and soaking up PK minutes. However, he didn't fare well on a lousy Edmonton team last season, and I got some insight from The Copper & Blue's Derek Zona:

Johnson is a high-event defender.  His skating ability is well above-average and he's got an accurate shot.  He thinks offense first and tries to get up the ice with his skating ability.  In the short time he was in Edmonton, I didn't notice an above-average passing ability.  On defense, he thinks offense first and gets both over-powered and overwhelmed in his own end.  Dennis King tracked Edmonton's scoring chances at throughout the year and Johnson's scoring chance totals don't look kindly on his game.  I totaled them up for the season and found that Johnson actually made Edmonton's defense worse:

"There was an upwelling of support for signing Aaron Johnson  as an unrestricted free agent in the off-season.  The chances numbers show that he's probably better suited to play forward.  To put his performance into perspective, his arrival helped make Taylor Chorney's CA/15 look better."

Johnson gave up 2 more scoring chances per fifteen minutes compared to what he was able to generate, all while facing below-average competition.  Johnson is best-suited as a 7th or 8th defenseman, not a player that can be depended on for 40 games next year.

So rather than putting pressure on Cody Franson, perhaps it's Alexander Sulzer or Ryan Parent who should be worried? Interestingly, in each of the last two seasons (2008-9 and 2009-10) he's been among his team's best defensemen in terms of Goals Against/60 Minutes in 4-on-5 play, so perhaps there is some PK potential here.

And hey, it looks like he isn't afraid to throw his weight around. Here he is a few months ago, wiping out Colton Orr from Toronto:

Here's the team's press release:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has signed free-agent defenseman Aaron Johnson to a one-year, two-way contract worth $550,000 at the National Hockey League level and $105,000 at the American Hockey League level.

Johnson, 27 (4/30/83), split the 2009-10 season between Calgary (22 games) and Edmonton (19 games), posting a career high in goals (4) while tying a personal best in points (10). The 6-1, 208-pounder also a averaged career high 15:39 of ice time a season ago. In an NHL career that started in 2003-04 the Port Hawkesbury, N.S., native has racked up 46 points (14g-32a) and 191 penalty minutes in 225 games with the Flames, Oilers, Chicago, N.Y. Islanders and Columbus.

Columbus' fourth selection, 85th overall (third round), in the 2001 Entry Draft is also a two-time Memorial Cup participant, appearing in the 2003 tournament with the host Quebec Remparts, and winning the 2000 edition with the Rimouski Oceanic.