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Damned if you do damned if you don't: The Jack Johnson saga

May 22, 2019, 10:20 AM ET [169 Comments]
Ryan Wilson
Pittsburgh Penguins Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
The elephant in the Penguins room remains Jack Johnson’s negative on-ice contributions and the cost to the team in voluntarily dragging themselves down. It is a terrible contract. A contract that won’t be easy to move. I think it could be moved, but it will come at a cost.

There are two paths to getting out from a contract like Johnson’s. The first is to spend quality assets and attach those to Johnson in a trade. One example could be the 2019 first round pick. The other way is to trade away a bad contract for another bad contract. The damned if you do damned if you don’t scenario. One of these scenarios might reside in Minnesota. From Michael Russo of The Athletic

4) There may be a way for Fenton to rid himself of Rask’s contract if he’s willing to take one of Penguins GM Jim Rutherford’s problem contracts like defenseman Jack Johnson.
Rask, drafted by Rutherford when he managed the Carolina Hurricanes, has three years left on a contract at $4 million annually. Right now, he’s penciled in on the Wild’s fourth line next season at center or wing. Johnson has four years left on a contract that pays him $3.25 million annually.

You have a former Rutherford draft pick in Rask and Jack Johnson can move back “home” to Shattucks to bask in old memories.

First things first, what the hell was Paul Fenton thinking giving away Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask? What a brutal self-inflicted wound much like the Johnson signing. It’s amazing to me that both of these teams have the original crew from War On Ice (Sam Ventura, A.C. Thomas, and Alexandra Mandrycky) and don’t appear to be utilizing their wisdom. It is likely A.C. Thomas, who was let go by the Wild a few weeks ago, lost his position because he wasn’t a yes man. Hiring smart people is just window dressing if you aren’t actually going to consider their input.

Anyways, back to Russo’s speculation about Johnson and Rask. What does the money look like when you compare Rask’s contract with Johnson’s? Rask costs 750k more than Johnson, but has one less year remaining on his deal. If you’re not enamored with Rask’s contract it is because it is not a good contract. This is the reality of the situation. Trading bad for bad.

The questions that needs to be answered with this scenario is if Rask is as bad as Jack Johnson or worse? Also, does Rask’s increased cap hit outweigh the benefits of losing Johnson? Here is Rask’s past history.

This isn’t very good. The raw numbers do show a player flirting with the 50% mark, but you have to take into consideration that he played for Carolina who was/is consistently a team near the top of the league for both CF% and xGF%. The relative numbers help us understand that within Rask’s advantageous situation he was never a contributor. He was a passenger. Mid-way through the 2018-19 season he went to Minnesota and things didn’t get any better.

Sometimes offense can supersede possession woes

Not here. Rask peaks as a low end third line player and he is trending down. Looking at 5v5 points per 60 gives us a better indication of his potential contributions to the Penguins. Looking at Rask’s total points could be misleading because on the surface they really aren’t bad with the exception of 2018-19 where he missed a sizable amount of games to injury.

2014-15: 33
2015-16: 48
2016-17: 45
2017-18: 31

If these were 5v5 points it would be one thing, but they aren’t. Out of the 157 points about a third of them (52) were on the power play. A low end left handed depth player isn’t getting anywhere close to the Penguins power play. This part of Rask’s game might as well not exist as far as this discussion is concerned.

Rask’s passing is better than Johnson, but when combined with his limited offensive contributions and being a possession passenger it doesn’t make his 4M appealing. Even if it means Johnson would be off the team.

Is buying out Rask preferable to buying out Johnson? Here are the buyout comparisons for this June:

Sure Rask’s buyout ends two years sooner, but his cap hit is higher for the majority of the Penguins win now window.

Jack Johnson is a poison pill. Getting rid of his corpse is going to come at a negative cost. If I’m the Penguins I would keep looking for another negative cost or just buyout Johnson. The increase in cap hit from Rask outweighs the benefits of losing Johnson. Either way the Penguins are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Thanks for reading!
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