When Michael Houser was signed to an NHL contract yesterday, some wondered whether it meant a trade was coming for one of the other Buffalo Sabres goaltenders. That was a good prediction, as Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports Jonas Johansson is on his way to the Colorado Avalanche for a 2021 sixth-round pick. The deal, which was first reported by Lance Lysowski of the Buffalo News yesterday when Johansson was not at practice, had a slight hold up but has now been completed.
Johansson, 25, was the 61st overall pick in 2014 and has climbed the ranks of the Buffalo organization over the last few years. In 2019-20 he posted a .921 save percentage in 22 games for the Rochester Americans, while also making his first appearance at the NHL level. Expected to challenge Carter Hutton this season for the Sabres backup role, he has struggled instead, posting an 0-5-1 record and .884 save percentage in seven appearances. John Vogl of The Athletic called him the worst goalie he’s seen in 19 seasons covering the Sabres, though obviously, the Avalanche believe he can provide some value for the team.
Perhaps that’s because for Colorado, an .884 would be a tremendous upgrade at the backup goaltending position. With Pavel Francouz injured, the team has used Hunter Miska in that role this season, where he has registered an .838 in five appearances. With their sights set on the postseason and not much proven talent behind starter Philipp Grubauer, the Avalanche have decided to add another name to the mix.
While a sixth-round pick doesn’t mean much in the long run, it could signal the start of a fire sale in Buffalo. Johansson is set to become a Group VI unrestricted free agent in the summer and could be just the first of several rentals sold off as the deadline approaches. The Sabres have quite a few expiring contracts, including Taylor Hall, Eric Staal, Tobias Rieder, Riley Sheahan, Brandon Montour, Matt Irwin, Jake McCabe, Linus Ullmark and Hutton. Any number of those could be on their way out, especially if GM Kevyn Adams is happy to take draft picks in return for the lesser names.