Michigan star defenseman Jack Johnson finalized a contract with the Los Angeles Kings yesterday afternoon and will likely make his NHL debut Thursday night.
Johnson’s agent, Pat Brisson, confirmed the deal was made, but did not disclose the terms of the sophomore’s contract.
“We just wanted to make sure he gets a fair deal in the marketplace,” Brisson told The Michigan Daily yesterday. “The Kings treated him well. Sometimes it just takes time.”
Jack Johnson, Sr. also confirmed the deal in a voicemail he left a reporter last night.
The Kings are expected to make the announcement today.
Johnson was flying from Denver – where the Wolverines lost to North Dakota 8-5 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday – to Los Angeles last night.
The contract was to be signed once the plane landed in Los Angeles, but the terms for the deal are already worked out, according to Johnson, Sr.
The CCHA’s Offensive Defenseman of the Year’s debut won’t occur tonight like he originally planned because he hasn’t undergone an NHLPA-mandated physical yet. Instead, he will most likely play against Vancouver on Thursday night in Los Angeles, according to Brisson.
Contract negotiations started after the NCAA Tournament loss late Saturday night and continued for about two days until the two sides came to an agreement yesterday afternoon.
If he debuts Thursday, Johnson could play in Los Angeles’ final five games. The Kings are out of contention for a playoff spot.
Johnson will return to Ann Arbor after the NHL season to take classes rather than playing for the Kings’ minor league team in Manchester, N.H.
“He’s only going to be gone for three weeks,” Jack Johnson, Sr. told The Michigan Daily Sunday. “He’s coming back. He’s going to get a degree from Michigan. That’s the No. 1 thing: He promised (Michigan coach Red Berenson) he will graduate.”
The Carolina Hurricanes picked Johnson with the third-overall pick of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft – two spots behind his friend and NHL superstar Sidney Crosby. After Johnson turned down multiple contract offers, the Hurricanes traded his rights to the Kings on Oct. 1, 2006.
This time, however, Johnson couldn’t let the opportunity pass him by.
“I thought I was ready for a new challenge,” Johnson told the Daily Sunday. “With all my close friends, the seniors, now gone and everything, I thought it was time for me to pretty much go for a new challenge.”
– Amber Colvin and Nate Sandals contributed to this report.