Anaheim Ducks goaltender Ryan Miller suffered an injury on the weekend, and the team has quickly made a move to fill his role behind starter John Gibson. The Ducks today claimed Chad Johnson off waivers from the St. Louis Blues, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet. Miller is expected to be out around six weeks, giving Johnson the opportunity to show that he can still be an effective goaltender in the NHL.
While Johnson brings a good amount of NHL experience to Anaheim, the move does come with a substantial amount of downside for the Ducks. The team is already using long-term injured reserve in order to stay below the salary cap, and will take on Johnson’s entire $1.75MM contract by claiming him. That amount can’t even be fully buried in the minor leagues, meaning he’ll remain on their books even after Miller returns unless someone else claims him at that point. He also represents the team’s 50th contract, putting them at the limit and restricting any other potential moves they can make. The Ducks now can’t make another waiver claim without removing a contract, nor can they sign a college or European free agent. That problem can be fixed later on with a trade, but it does limit their flexibility for the time being.
All that in mind, the team certainly needed to find an answer in net. While Gibson is an outstanding starter, he does have a history of injury and the team didn’t have much NHL experience behind him. Jared Coreau is up with the team at the moment, and has just 21 mostly unsuccessful appearances under his belt. Johnson has played in 183 NHL games, starting his career back in 2009-10 with the New York Rangers.
Still, it’s been some time since Johnson was considered a premier backup in the league. Last season for the Buffalo Sabres he recorded a 10-16-3 record while posting a .891 save percentage, and those numbers have only gotten worse this year in St. Louis. While there may be reason to believe he can turn things around in Anaheim, the 32-year old is certainly no guarantee. If he does struggle with the Ducks, it seems unlikely that he would be claimed again on waivers, meaning Anaheim might be stuck with his contract for the entire season.