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Los Angeles Kings’ defenceman Jack Johnson appears to be staying put for the long haul.  The 23 year-old rearguard has signed a new seven-year contract with the Kings worth $30.5 million.  This new contract comes in the midst of a career offensive year for Johnson, who is on pace to shatter his previous best performance.

I’m always leery of contract extensions handed out during career seasons, so let’s take a longer look at where Johnson’s offence is coming from this season.

Johnson’s outburst this season has entirely been a result of his work with the man advantage.  Johnson is currently on pace for 18 even-strength points, right in line with his career average.  Expressed in terms of points to ice-time, Johnson has 0.68 PTS/60 at even-strength, as compared to 0.67 PTS/60 over his entire career.  It actually represents a significant step backward from his offensive performance at even-strength last season.

The power play is a different matter altogether.  Through 41 games, Johnson has put up 21 points.  His career high through an entire season, prior to this one, was13.  That total leads all Los Angeles players, and is just five fewer than league-leader Steven Stamkos, and puts him on pace for 42 points over the whole season.  The post-lockout league leaders in power-play points:

Season Forward Leader Defence Leader
2005-06 Kovalchuk, 56 PTS Kaberle, 51 PTS
2006-07 Crosby, 61 PTS Gonchar/Souray, 48 PTS
2007-08 Kovalev, 47 PTS Gonchar, 46 PTS
2008-09 Ovechkin, 46 PTS Markov, 39 PTS
2009-10 Stamkos, 41 PTS Green, 35 PTS

I attribute the decline in points posted by the scoring leaders to the sharp decline in power plays called in the post-lockout era.  Immediately after the lockout, penalty-calling shot through the roof, and power play point totals did as well.  As fewer penalties have been called, there has been less opportunity to put up power play points.

Johnson’s totals put him among the league’s elite players with the man advantage.  It also represents a jump from 3.49 PTS/60 on the man advantage all the way up to 7.62 PTS/60.  I think it’s fair to say that this may not be a sustainable jump.  Interestingly, in his comments on the signing, Kings G.M. Dean Lombardi suggested that he saw further progression coming from Johnson:

“That’s where you have to make a reasonable assumption that this player is going to continue to progress. If he does, you’re sitting there with a contract and you can fit in other guys… In Jack’s case, I don’t have any doubt that he’s not going to get complacent on us. That’s always your fear, when you step up for a young player, that he’s going to go, `Well, I’ve got it made,’ and stop trying to be the best he can. I have the utmost confidence, in terms of Jack, that this is not going to happen. If anything, it’s going to make him more confident, and drive harder. That’s the other thing that allows you to step up.”

Certainly there are areas where Johnson can improve – his defensive game is still evolving, and his even-strength offence is not at a particularly high level right now.  It seems exceedingly unlikely that he will be able to improve upon his overall point totals, however.