Call it a trade eight months in the making. Since the restricted free agency snafu of the previous summer, Cam Barker had essentially punched a one-way ticket out of Chicago. Whether it was during this season or the off-season, the chances of Barker playing out the remainder of his three-year deal in the Indian-head were slim and none.
After a November 19th tilt against the Flames saw him net two assists, it became more and more apparent that Barker’s days with the Hawks were numbered. With the first of two roster freezes coming this Friday afternoon, the Hawks’ brass felt the time was now to clear out Barker’s 3.083 cap hit.
In his place comes ten-year veteran Kim Johnsson. Johnsson comes with a reputation of being a dependable defenseman along with the ability to play in all situations. On a mediocre Minnesota Wild team, he was averaging upwards of 23 minutes a game while contributing as a top-4 defensemen. On a team like the Hawks, Johnsson won’t be expected to log that many minutes and he’ll only play the role of a 5th-6th defenseman. But if the situation should arise, he can play top-4 minutes for the Hawks. Throw in the fact that he’s playing on an expiring contract and he’s exactly what the Hawks have been in the market for.
Coming along with Johnsson are the rights to Minnesota’s 2009 1st round pick, defenseman Nick Leddy. Last year, Leddy won the Mr. Hockey Award in Minnesota given to the best senior high school hockey player. At the time of the draft, the Wild was criticized for reaching on Leddy with the 16th spot. By sending him to the Hawks, they’re basically admitting they made a mistake in drafting him where they did.
Leddy currently plays for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. In 19 games, Leddy has a goal and 4 assists. In November, he suffered a broken jaw that knocked him out for six weeks. He has since returned.
He describes himself as an offensive defenseman who’s always looking to push the play. At 5’11”, he’s a bit undersized for a defenseman, but he makes up for it with above average speed.
With all this on the table, let’s get to some of the more important questions.
Who won the deal?
We can’t go five seconds after a trade is consumated before people try and figure who ‘won’ it. This deal is no different. Unfortunately for the Mountain Dew Generation, it’s not exactly black and white. In the short-term, the Hawks clearly get what they need. A veteran depth defenseman as well as much needed cap space for next season. In the long-term, the Minnesota Wild get a defenseman who, at some point, is primed for a breakout season.
The Wild certainly don’t score extra points for giving up a 1st round pick just 8 months after they drafted him. So for now, the Hawks come off smelling pretty clean on this deal. The big difference will be two years from now when Johnsson has moved on, Leddy is still at the University of Minnesota, and Barker is still playing for the Wild. Will Chicago fans remember the relief they felt on this day or will they rue the day the Hawks ever let go of the great Cam Barker?
Either way, the Hawks made a move that needed to be made and that should not be forgotten.
How do you feel about Stan Bowman’s first major move?
I’m not going to lie, I’ve been a bit apprehensive anticipating little Stan’s first trade. Certainly in the past couple weeks when the James Wisniewski trade rumors were floated, it didn’t make me feel any better. After today, though, I’m a bit more confident in him.
In trading Barker, Bowman didn’t settle for a ’75 cents on the dollar’ trade. With the Hawks in need for cap space, it would’ve been very easy for Bowman to panic and make a lousy deal like the aforementioned Wisniewski rumor. Instead, he picked up a valuable veteran for the present and a nice defensive prospect for the future.
Not too shabby.
So what happens now?
Johnsson will most likely be paired up with Brent Sopel as the third defensive pairing for the Hawks. In addition, he can play the point on the power play and kill penalties. So instead of only having four and a half defensemen killing penalties, the Hawks immediately go five defensemen deep on the penalty kill. Perhaps more importantly, Brian Campbell will only be asked to kill penalties in emergencies.
It remains to be seen whether Quenneville will play Johnsson on the point with a man advantage. Before Barker was shipped, the idea was to put Barker back on the point with a man advantage and moving Byfuglien back to the front of the net. With fresh blood in the mix, Quenneville will probably put Byfuglien back on the point, at least in the short-term.
As for Leddy, don’t count on seeing him for at least three years.
Are there more deals coming before the March 6th trade deadline?
For the Hawks, not likely. With Johnsson in the fold, they’ve shored up their back line. Up front, they really don’t have to make a move unless Ben Eager’s injury is more serious than they’re letting on. While some still pine for a goalie to be acquired, the options are few and far between and the only realistic option (Tomas Vokoun) may not be all that realistic anyways.
How are the Hawks cap-wise?
There’s the million dollar question. For this season, they’re quite alright. With about 500k in available cap space, they still have plenty of room for Rockford call-ups. Not to mention, with Barker now out of the mix, they should be in the clear when it comes to the pesky tagging issue.
For next season, the Hawks have more than $57 million committed to 14 players. Obviously, there’s still work to be done before July 1st, but that can addressed at a later date.