Johnny Comes Marching Into Pittsburgh

Allen PopelsCorrespondent IJuly 21, 2009

UNIONDALE, NY - DECEMBER 16:  Brent Johnson #1 of the Washington Capitals in action against The New York Islanders during their game at the Nassau Coliseum on December 16, 2008 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Pittsburgh Penguins came to terms with former Capitals goaltender Brent Johnson on a one-year deal Tuesday. 

Notice that I didn't say "backup goaltender" when describing the 32 year-old Johnson, because last season when he went down with a serious hip injury, he was arguably the team's top netminder.  Jose Theodore struggled mightily in the first half of the year leaving the door open for Johnson to secure more playing time.

Johnny, as he's nicknamed, ended up playing in 21 games while accumulating a record of 12-6-2 with a 2.81 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.  In early November he started five straight games leading Washington on a 4-0-1 run.  Then in early December he started four out of five games and won them all, including a key 3-1 win over the conference leading Bruins in which he had 33 saves on the way to being named the first star of the game.

However, Johnson's season came to an early end when he underwent hip surgery in February and was out for the remainder of the year.  He attempted to return during the team's playoff run, but with Simeon Varlamov playing well and Jose Theodore backing him up, Johnny was the 3rd goaltender for the second straight season.  At the 2008 trading deadline the Capitals acquired Cristobal Huet from the Montreal Canadians in a move that also demoted him to the press box during game days.

Johnson, who has mostly been a backup goaltender during his four-year stay in Washington, began his career by putting up some excellent numbers with the St. Louis Blues.  His best season was back in 2001-02 when he was 34-20-4 with a 2.18 goals-against-average and a .902 save percentage.  He certainly gives Pittsburgh an experienced netminder that has the ability to fill in as the top guy.

"It certainly gives us some good competition and depth in that position," Dan Bylsma told the media.  "Brent's an established guy in the NHL as a backup goaltender.  He's put up good numbers at different times in his career and he's a big guy."

"With Jose Theodore's $4.5 million dollar contract, the emergence of (Simeon) Varlamov, and Michal Neuvirth, you knew that Brent Johnson's days in Washington were numbered," Comcast SportsNet's Al Koken said during his appearance on Washington Post Live Tuesday evening.  "I just wish he wasn't heading to the Pittsburgh Penguins."

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