Johnson Fans Rejoice


Jack Johnson may be easily confused with the hit singer by the same name but it would be interesting to see Johnson (the singer) put down his guitar, pick up a stick, and do what Johnson (the defenseman) does on a regular basis for the LA Kings. Well, maybe the Kings wouldn’t struggle any more than they have been during the five-game losing streak from which they just broke free. Nonetheless, the Kings are keeping their Jack Johnson around, for next seven years at least.

The Kings announced triumphantly after their win against Columbus on Saturday night, January 8th, 2011 that Jack Johnson signed a contract worth $30.5 million, a contract that will keep him with the team for another seven years.

The fifth year defenseman has been in negotiations to arrive at this contract for over two months.

On the brink of turning 24, Johnson hauled in three assists on Saturday night as a precursor to the announcement of his new contract.

Johnson started out in the NHL in 2005, a 3rd round pick for the Carolina Hurricanes.

“When I got drafted, it was by the Hurricanes,” said Johnson, “I was just out of the U.S. development program and I knew no matter what that I wanted to go to the University of Michigan.  That was a dream of mine and something I really wanted to experience.  And after my first year the opportunity had come up that they’d like me to leave school and everything and I just decided that I wasn’t ready as a hockey player or as a person to leave college yet.”

“I remember having dinner with Jimmy Rutherford, Carolina’s GM, in Detroit.  I said, ‘Look, I’m not ready as a hockey player or as a person, and I need one more year after this year.’  Everyone seemed very cool with it and a couple weeks later I was sitting there in class and I got a text message from one of my former teammates, Jack Skilli, now with the Chicago Blackhawks, saying I just got traded to the Kings.”

When Johnson got out of class that day his phone was alive with calls from everyone, including Ron Hextall. Johnson recalls responding to the situation with a simple: “Well, OK, this sounds good.”

“From my last college game until my first NHL game, it was short and it was a whirlwind,” says Johnson. “I think that played to my advantage and it was a fun experience for me. The fact that I didn’t have a lot of time, it didn’t give me a lot of time to think about it. I think in a lot of ways it was a blessing.  It was just go out and do it and get your first game out of the way. You’ll never have another first game and everything will take off from there.”

And take off it has, Johnson hasn’t looked back since stepping out of class that day and virtually onto the ice in LA.

“That’s great for Jack. He’s a young guy who’s going to be a good player in this game for a long time,” said Kings Coach Terry Murray. “So it’s great to get him locked up and know that Jack’s going to be a part of this franchise for a long time.”

Johnson plays alongside Drew Doughty and they have turned out to be a solid defensive pairing. Doughty is now nearing the end of his entry-level contract with the potential to become a free agent after this season.

“We’re hoping that [Jack Johnson] and Drew Doughty can end up being the anchors of this blue line corps for a long time,” said Murray.

“I don’t really think [Johnson’s contract] has any bearing on the amount I’m going to sign for or the amount of years I’m going to sign for,” Doughty said when questioned about it by a reporter.  “I’m just here to play and not worry about that stuff. That is why my agent’s out here, to talk and deal with that stuff. I want to know what’s going on and what’s being said, but I’m going to stay out of the negotiating process.”

Doughty’s Toronto-based agent of Newport Sports, Don Meehan, was in Los Angeles over the weekend and likely moving on this matter which Doughty intends to steer away from.

While not all fan favorites have been locked into a lengthy contract like Johnson, fans applauded the announcement and the entire team seemed elated to have Johnson sticking around for the duration of what is one of the longest contracts in Kings history.