Upon being traded from the Capitals five years ago to the New Jersey Devils, the winger started to go by Johansson with a hard J as in “Joe” — surprising many who had grown accustomed to pronouncing the last name like “Yohansson.” Had the Capitals really been getting it wrong for seven years? Not quitåe.
After being re-acquired Monday for this year’s trade deadline from the Seattle Kraken, Johansson politely told reporters that it is indeed like “yo.” Somewhere along the way, there was a mixup and Johansson was too polite to correct it. But now, he‘s returned to the franchise that perhaps knows him best — allowing him to be himself.
“This is the one place I wanted to go,” Johannson said. “This feels special and (I’m) real happy to be here.”
The Capitalsmeanwhile, wasted no time in trying to have Johansson feel right at home. For Tuesday’s game against the St. Louis Blues, coach Peter Laviolette slotted Johansson in on the first line alongside Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin — two players Johansson played with regularly over his first stint in Washington.
There are, after all, only eight players on the Capitals who remain from the 2016-17 season, Johansson‘s last in the District. Following that year — which ended with a brutal Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins — Johansson was shipped out of town so the Capitals could re-sign Kuznetsov and winger TJ Oshie. Of those eight, all considered part of the Capitals‘ core.
The familiarity, in theory, should help Johansson get caught up to speed quicker.
“Sometimes that’s like walking in some old slippers, you know what you’re doing, you’re comfortable,” Laviolette said. “I think it makes it a little bit more comfortable.”
The last five years for Johansson have been anything but smooth.
Perhaps the most frustrating leg of Johanssons’ journey, however, came the season immediately after the Capitals traded him. That year, Washington won the Stanley Cup — leaving Johansson on the outside, looking in.
All those playoff battles as a member of the Capitals — all those excruciating losses — and Johannsson didn’t get to reap the reward.
“Obviously, you want to be part of it and win,” Johansson said. “But I was also very happy for the guys. You battle for seven years with them, that was the one goal and we didn’t get there. Then your friends get a chance to do that, I’m obviously happy for them. It’s frustrating not being part of it, but that’s the way it goes.”
Johansson did come close to finally accomplishing his dream in 2019 with the Bruins. But in the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins suffered a 4-1 loss in Game 7 to the Blues. In that series, Johansson scored a goal and tallied an assist in Game 3.
The experiences have made Johansson a different player from his first go-around with the Capitals. Teammate Nicklas Backstrom said Johansson is now “more responsible” on the ice, turning into an all-around player. Johansson agreed, saying he‘s grown and is excited to show what he can do.
Entering Tuesday’s game, Johansson has scored six goals to pair with 17 assists this season. The Kraken traded him for Daniel Sprong, a fourth-rounder and a 2023 sixth-round pick in part because the expansion team is trying to build for the long term. The Capitals set their eyes on Johansson because of his versatility.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been here but it kind of feels the same still,” Johansson said. “It’s kind of what makes this place feel special like coming here it feels like you still know everybody such good friendships and bonds that you’ve had over all the years and somehow it kind of feels like nothing changed.”