Friday, February 12, 2010

Wild acquire Barker, ship Johnsson

Minnesota made a splash on mini-deadline day when GM Chuck Fletcher shipped defenseman Kim Johnsson and 2009 first round draft pick Nick Leddy to Chicago in exchange for defenseman Cam Barker.

Johnsson, 33, was set to become an unrestricted free agent, while Leddy is a freshman at the University of Minnesota. According to Michael Russo, Wild sources were concerned about Leddy's lack of development so far at the college level.

Barker, 23, was made expendable in Chicago with the emergence of Niklas Hjalmarsson. After a breakout 2008-09 season in which Barker recorded six goals and 34 assists and showed an ability to run the power play, he's seen his ice time dwindle to fifth among Blackhawks defensemen, at just 13:05 per game.

Conversely, Johnsson averages over 10 minutes more per game, at 23:46. He's on the ice for 31 shifts per game, whereas Barker averaged just under 19 shifts. Their point totals are the same, with 14 each. Johnsson has more goals (six to four.)

Presumably, Barker steps into Johnsson's role in Minnesota. I'd expect him to be on the second power play unit and play much more than he did in Chicago as they try to jumpstart him to return to the player he was becoming last season. He certainly showed the capability of being a top-four D-man.

From Chicago's perspective, it'll be interesting to see how they use Johnsson. As alluded to above, Barker was essentially Joel Quenneville's No. 5 defenseman, behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Hjalmarsson. The Blackhawks may put Johnsson on their third pairing to help Brent Sopel and get more experience throughout their defense corps. Or maybe they exchange Johnsson and Hjalmarsson on the second pairing so as to not give the youngster too much to do as he learns the trade. At the least, this frees up some desperately needed cap space for future seasons, but the Hawks need more to do on that front.

As for Leddy, well, a prospect is a prospect. Flip a coin and that's probably just as accurate a way to determine his future as anything.

Barker is signed for the next two seasons with a cap hit of $3.083 million.

I'd say this is a win-win. Minnesota gets younger, cheaper, plus a player with more upside, and Chicago gets a veteran for the playoffs and a contract off its books.

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