Last year, when Chuck Fletcher claimed Nick Johnson off of waivers, he was quickly dubbed "Best Waiver Claim Ever." Pittsburgh Penguins fans were not happy they lost the prospect, but off he was to Minnesota. Once he, he grew quickly into a fan favorite, played hard nosed hockey, being responsible, and putting in a few points here and there. However, when the Great Slide of 2012 began, Johnson disappeared.
He was still a solid player, but as Russo has pointed out several times, Johnson is arbitration eligible, and would likely win a one way deal with the Wild. That may not seem like that big of a deal, but it is. One way players generally have more security, since the owner doesn't want to pay a guy $750K or better to play in Houston.
This move may not sit well with some fans, but rest assured, it is a good move for the organization. It keeps space open for competition and perhaps for players like Brett Bulmer to step in and take a spot. Johnson was well liked by fans, but the business of the game has to be addressed, and Johnson just isn't quite good enough to be worth dealing with a one way contract.