Contract: $1.3 million, UFA
Introduction: He was brought in merely as a placeholder backup, but by the end of the season, Chad Johnson proved himself to be a capable goaltender in his own right. Forced in to a bigger role this season thanks to Robin Lehner's injury, Johnson split starts with Linus Ullmark before grabbing the starter's job for himself, finishing this season with 40 games started, a new career highs.
Now as Johnson enters free agency, the question is the price he'll fetch. Do teams view the 29-year old as a viable starter, or will he be viewed as a very, very good backup? The Sabres won't be able to give him a starting role thanks to their commitment to Lehner, but Johnson proved this season he can handle it, though with limited experience.
Key Stat: .928 - that's Johnson's save percentage if you don't count his (and the team's) horrible October. That number over an entire season would have put him second in the NHL among starting netminders, pretty darn good for a guy signed to be just a placeholder. His season-long save percentage ended up being .920, which was still good for 14th among starters, but from November on, Johnson's save percentage never dipped below .919. He didn't just have a hot streak or a good month - he had a great season sabotaged by an awful start.
Thumbs Up: Like we mentioned above, Johnson had a very consistent year for the Sabres once things got going. He certainly gave them a chance to win in almost every game, and he somehow had a knack for making highlight-reel saves along the way. He wasn't always in perfect position, but often found creative ways to recover. He's got pretty good size at 6'3'', though maybe not the monstrous size that GMTM seems to prefer, and uses it effectively in the crease. And he even contributes on offense - Johnson had two assists this year, one of only twelve starters in the league to get on the scoresheet multiple times.
Thumbs Down: There's not much to dislike about Johnson's performance this year. Yes, he would give up soft goals occasionally but what goalie doesn't? You could nitpick that he only had one shutout this season, or that he needs to have better rebound control, but one area that definitely needs improvement is his puck handling. After years of Ryan Miller gaffes with the puck I thought we'd be immune to poor passes, but Johnson's inexperience showed in this aspect of his game.
Memorable Moment: Johnson had a bunch of memorable saves this season, but this bellyflopping effort against Tampa Bay is one of my favorites.
Voting: Using the good old grade school system of A, B, C, D, F, with A representing a great season (for the Sabres) C an average season, and F a very poor season, grade Chad Johnson on his performance this year.