Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is turning to an old acquaintance to bolster his team's defense.
According to multiple reports, the Penguins intend to sign unrestricted free-agent defenseman Jack Johnson to a five-year contract when he officially becomes available on Sunday. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the deal will carry a salary-cap hit of between $3 million and $3.5 million annually.
While GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, Rutherford selected Johnson No. 3 overall in the 2005 NHL draft, but the University of Michigan player declined to turn pro. So in October 2006, Rutherford shipped him to the Los Angeles Kings in a package that brought Tim Gleason to Carolina. At the time, Rutherford said Johnson "is going to be a very, very good, if not great, NHL player."
Twelve years later, they'll be reunited, barring any wrinkles in negotiations between now and Sunday.
Johnson had a career-high 42 points for Los Angeles during the 2010-11 season. He was traded to Columbus in 2012 for forward Jeff Carter, who became a key member of two Stanley Cup-winning Kings teams.
Johnson, 31, has played 788 games in the NHL with 278 points, but his numbers have fallen off in the past three seasons, including just 11 points in 77 games last season.
Looking for a long-term commitment, Johnson requested a trade last season, but Columbus held on to him for a playoff run. He was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career this season, and then was kept out of the lineup on several more occasions.
Johnson, who earned $5 million last season, filed for bankruptcy in 2014 for what he says was mismanagement of his money by his parents.
Johnson attended prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota with Penguins star Sidney Crosby, and the two have remained friends.