The Florida Panthers claimed Jonas Johansson off waivers on Dec. 13, just a day after they lost to his former Colorado Avalanche at the end of their previous road trip.
Colorado placed Johansson on waivers in trying to get him to the AHL Colorado Eagles.
Instead, he ended up with the Panthers.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Johansson said. “I was just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen. But I’m really happy I got to come here, so we’ll have to go from here.”
Upon arriving in South Florida, Johansson got to experience something he never had before: 80-degree weather during the holiday season.
“It’s probably the first time for me,” Johansson said.
The 26-year-old is from Gävle, Sweden, and spent most of his playing career there. Drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the third round in 2014, he has played in the AHL, ECHL and with the Sabres and Avs.
Johansson has a 9-11-4 record with a .892/3.13 in his NHL career, putting up better numbers since being traded from Buffalo to Colorado last season.
In 17 games with the Avalanche, ‘JoJo’ had an 8-3-2 record with a .895/2.90.
That included one of the more important games of Colorado’s 2020-21 season, where Johansson stopped 21 of 22 shots (.955) in a 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on May 14.
That win secured the Presidents’ Trophy for the Avalanche.
“He’s a confident player right now,” Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar said after that win.
“I thought he was really good tonight, made some big saves for us, especially when the game was 0-0, 1-1.”
When Pavel Francouz went down with an injury during a preseason game on Oct. 6, 2021, Johansson got a chance to be Colorado’s main backup to start the season.
With the Avalanche leaning on him heavily, he went 6-3-2 with a .885/3.73 during the season, struggling a bit near the end of his tenure in Denver.
That stretch did include a performance that saw Johansson stop 34 of the 37 shots he faced (.919) in a 4-1 loss to the Panthers on Oct. 21.
Now, Johansson looks to hit another level in Florida. He is already working with Robb Tallas, Roberto Luongo and the Panthers’ goaltending department.
“I’m just trying to get better every day,” Johansson said. “I just met with [Tallas] and I think it was really good. I think we had good communication and it’s a good opportunity for positive things to happen, so I’m going to work hard and play my best.”
On top of Luongo, who has the fourth-most goalie wins in NHL history, Johansson also gets to work with two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky while continuing to develop as a young goaltender.
He views it as a great learning experience.
“Bobrovsky, obviously one of the best guys in the world, is a great guy to work with,” Johansson said. “Luongo is a legend, so now I can get into it and work with him as well.”
Johansson was supposed to make his Panthers debut on Saturday in Minnesota, but that will be delayed with the NHL postponing all of Florida’s games through Christmas due to Covid-19 protocols.
With No. 3 goalie Christopher Gibson hurt at AHL Charlotte, the Panthers claimed Johansson for depth and in the hope he can show something.
With Johansson up with the Panthers — and the team facing a roster crunch — rookie Spencer Knight was sent to Charlotte where he made his AHL debut Saturday in a 5-1 loss to Bridgeport.
“Whenever I get to play, I’m just super excited and happy about it,” Johansson said. “I’m just happy to be with the team.”