When he came to Minnesota, new GM Chuck Fletcher started talking about building the team for the future pretty much immediately. You would have had to excuse Wild fans if they rolled their eyes and said a big, collective "Yeah, right. I'll believe it when I see it." Wild fans, you see, had been burned by that promise by their previous GM time and time again.
Pavlov's dogs, and all that.
Since then, however, Mr. Fletcher has done nothing but deliver on his own mandate. Not only that, but we're not talking about Chris Simon here. Getting Havlat was a loud and immediate shot across Wild fans' bow that a new boss was in charge. Okay, so Chuck Kobasew, Andrew Ebbett and Guillaume Latendresse aren't going to make anyone forget about the KLM line any time soon.
But the point is that Fletcher A) did something with an eye on improving the team and B) did something when most GMs were unable to get a deal done.
And he's done so while protecting what precious few assets he has in the cupboard.
But, when you build a house, sometimes you have to make a little mess. And Nick Leddy is that mess, for now. You never like to give up a 1st round pick, but it really couldn't have been any other way. Johnsson is a UFA after this season. Pretty much no way Chicago can re-sign him in their current economics. So of course they wanted a prospect back. First, prospects don't have cap hits. And second, then they can still net out with some kind of asset if/when they let Johnsson walk on July 1st.
In Barker, the Wild gets younger and out from under the yoke of Johnsson's UFA status. They also get a little lighter, cap-wise, in general (assuming Johnsson wouldn't have re-signed for materially less money than he's making now.) They replace a 1st rounder (Leddy) with a former 1st rounder (Barker) and one that can help them right now, but is still a few years from his prime.
Whether or not this is the end of Fletcher's dealing in advance of the trade deadline on March 3rd remains to be seen.
But this was a good, sound move - for now and the future - in which Fletcher had to make a hard decision about giving up a guy he drafted, and did. Risebrough's reticence to part ways with one of "his" guys (read Sheppard) was well-known and (deservedly) much maligned among Wild fans.
Nice to see that Fletcher is delivering on his word, and doing so with the audacity and cunning that Wild fans have been longing for from their GM for years.