March 15: Both players have cleared as expected. Johnson and Backes can both be moved to the taxi squad.
Johnson, 34, has seemingly failed again in his latest bounce-back bid, this time with the New York Rangers. Bought out by the Pittsburgh Penguins in October, Johnson signed with the Rangers just a few days later for one year and $1.15MM. In 13 games with New York, he has just a single point, is averaging the fewest minutes of his career, and is once again getting caved in by all possession metrics. It seems clear that his time as a lineup regular should be over and perhaps it now will be with this waiver assignment.
If Johnson clears, $1.075MM of his cap hit can be buried by placing him on the taxi squad or assigning him to the minor leagues. If Vitali Kravtsov is indeed coming to join the team now that his KHL season has concluded, they will need some extra cap space to fit him in.
Backes meanwhile has seen this movie before, given he cleared waivers last season and again in January. The veteran forward brings great leadership and physicality, but just can’t keep up at age-36. In ten games for the Anaheim Ducks this season, he has two goals. If his play wasn’t enough to keep him from a claim, Backes’ contract is. The veteran is in the final year of the five-year, $30MM deal he signed in the summer of 2016 and still carries a cap hit of $6MM. Similarly, $1.075MM can be buried if Backes is placed on the taxi squad or sent to the minor leagues.