Johnson bolts for NHL

First-year defenseman Erik Johnson officially announced today that he’s giving up his remaining eligibility to join the St. Louis Blues.

by Mark Remme

Suddenly the future is a little more clear for the Minnesota men’s hockey team.

And a little less tenacious.

First-year defenseman Erik Johnson announced today that he will not return for his remaining three years of eligibility. Instead, he will join the St. Louis Blues for the 2007-08 season.

Johnson, 19, who was taken No. 1 overall by the Blues in the 2006 NHL draft, said the specifics of his contract couldn’t be discussed but he will receive a three-year deal worth $765,000 each season plus an $85,000 signing bonus and undisclosed endorsements.

“I informed Blues President John Davidson Tuesday morning (about leaving the Gophers),” Johnson said. “We had contract negotiations going on since then, but I announced it officially today.”

Johnson, who notched four goals and 20 assists in one season at Minnesota, said he told coach Don Lucia yesterday afternoon of his decision.

“He was really, really supportive,” Johnson said. “He’s been great this whole year and really helped me develop a lot.”

Lucia said in a prepared statement that Johnson was one of the most talented defenseman he’s ever coached.

“It is always bittersweet when a player leaves our program,” Lucia said. “But there is no doubt in my mind that Erik will have a terrific career in the NHL.”