- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Calle Johansson, who will most likely be remembered as the best two-way defenseman ever to play for Washington, ended his playing career with the Capitals yesterday.

“[Johansson] is one of the classiest individuals in the game,” said general manager George McPhee. “We will be fortunate to find another Calle Johansson in the future.”

The announcement did not come as a shock. The day after the club was eliminated from the playoffs in six games by Tampa Bay on April20, an emotional Johansson said he was considering leaving the team because of disagreements he had with the coaching staff over a number of issues, as well as his drastically reduced ice time in the final game.

Johansson, who averaged nearly 22 minutes a game during the regular season, played 13 minutes in the final playoff game, one that went into triple overtime.

“I won’t go there,” Johansson said yesterday when asked about his disagreements with coach Bruce Cassidy. “All I am going to say is that the Caps have treated me and my family like a million bucks for the past 15 years. I have no regrets, none. I love this town, I love this organization and a huge, huge part of me is going to stay here in this town.”

“Calle is a true professional and has been the backbone of the Caps for a long time,” Cassidy said yesterday. “It’s a shame that we have to let one game overshadow a man’s career but as coaches we make decisions that we think are best for the team at that time. We get paid to make decisions and unfortunately sometimes they’re not always popular.”

Johansson, 36, played all 82 games during the regular season even though he started the campaign as questionable. He had reconstructive surgery on his left rotator cuff in November 2001, and returned at the start of last season even though he had only 50 percent of his strength. In 1999-00 he started the season with a broken hand and also played all 82 games.

The shoulder injury prevented Johansson from playing for the Swedish Olympic team for the second time. He has extensive experience in international hockey and was on the World Cup of Hockey first all-star team (along with Chris Chelios of the U.S.) in 1995.

Johansson will be remembered as the steady blueliner who knew when it was safe to pinch and when it was best to stay back. He will be remembered as a leader and as a teacher. He was acquired from Buffalo in March 1989, and ends his Caps career as the franchise’s all-time leader in games played (983) and most seasons (15). In his 16 NHL seasons he played in 1,101 games with 529 points.

He left open the possibility that he would sign with another team for his 17th season in the league but admitted, “I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do, really.

“Karin has had a huge, huge impact in this decision,” Johansson said, referring to his wife. “She’s been following me for 16 years over here and a few years in Sweden before that so her say is enormous, probably bigger than mine. The [Johanssons three daughters] have been wonderful. Know what they said? ‘Do whatever makes you happy, dad.’”

He said he would like to work for the Caps as a scout in Europe and work for a Swedish television station that does extensive work with the NHL and the Swedish elite league.

Meanwhile, McPhee yesterday mentioned the possibility of a trade to fill Johansson’s shoes if an adequate homegrown defender can’t be found.

“We’re going to play some of the young players but if in the meantime over the summer a trade develops that would make sense for us and help us, we’d consider doing that,” McPhee said. “But we’re prepared to start with some of our young defensemen who have been developing. We’ll give them some time and if they’re doing the job, good for them and us. If not, we’ll have to make a trade.”

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