Barker/Johnsson Trade Reaction

With the Olympic roster freeze happening today, and a much smaller window once the freeze ends after the Olympic tournament, it doesn't come as much of a shock that there were moves made today.

One of which was our beloved Blackhawks shipping defenseman Cam Barker to the Minnesota Wild for defenseman Kim Johnsson and their 2009 first round draft pick, defenseman prospect Nick Leddy. First, let's take a look at the exiting Barker. With his freshly signed 3-year $3 million contract in hand, Barker has for the most part underwhelmed this year after a solid offensive year last season, where he was statistically the team's best power play player. Niklas Hjalmarsson's emergence as Brian Campbell's permanent even strength partner relegated Barker to 3rd pair even strength minutes, and the power play's occasional struggles led to a lot of shuffling from Coach Q, and Barker often found himself on the outside of the numbers game. Furthermore his contract status and believed untapped potential made him ripe and juicy trade bait for other teams. In Minnesota, he'll get the top-4 minutes he'll need to fully blossom as a defenseman. Cam Barker will be a successful defenseman in this league for a long time with his size and offensive instincts, but something had to be sent away for the sake of keeping all of the big contracts on the books for a long time, and when he does, do not lament that the Hawks should have kept him. He simply didn't fit into the future plans of the top two pairings here. Barker's depature leaves the Hawks on the smallish side for their defensive corps, but he never really played to that size in the first place. And if the Hawks continue to dictate their puck possession game to the opposition, buckets full of brute force from the blue line won't be necessary.

In return, the Blackhawks get Kim Johnsson, a soon-to-be 34 year old defenseman in his 10th season in the league, now on his fourth team, with stops with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia prior to his now concluded stint in Minnesota. Most importantly, however, is that Johnsson is in the last year of a contract where this year's cap hit is $4.85 million, and will be coming off the books at season's end as an unrestricted free agent. From what I've observed of Johnsson, which is admittedly limited, is a positionally sound player with a fair amount of mobility, and a decent amount of offensive upside- so basically, an older, more offensively inclined Niklas Hjalmarsson. Here is what Bryan "BReynolds" Reynolds from Hockey Wilderness, SBN's Minnesota Wild affiliate had to say regarding Johnsson:

Johnsson has gained fans and trust here. He came into a team that could not get the puck out of the defensive zone to save their lives. Johnsson can do that. He is what could be called a prototypical "puck-moving" defenseman. This year, more so than any other, his contract has started to look worthwhile. With a new system in place, Johnsson’s puck moving abilities have been greatly valued. However, with his contract set to expire, it was obvious they would try to shop him.

You are getting a highly skilled puck mover who can easily QB a power play unit if need be. While his offense is not the greatest, he often sets up scoring plays with an outlet pass or by getting what would be called a "third assist." He is involved in the offense, just not in the finishing. His defense is second to none, so that will absolutely not be an issue.

I'd call that pretty glowing praise, wouldn't you? And if this gets Buff off the point on the man advantage and/or cuts down on Keith's workload, then this move works out even better. Here are the stats for Johnsson so far this year.

2009 - Kim Johnsson 52 6 8 14 3 26 3 0 0 0 84 7.1

In addition to Johnsson, the Hawks also acquired the Wild's first round pick from this year's draft, defenseman Nick Leddy, who is currently playing at the University of Minnesota, who in 19 games has 1 goal and 4 assists in as a freshman, but has missed significant time due to a broken jaw. Pretty much every scouting report regarding Leddy uses some approximation of "world class skater", but at 5'11" and 180-ish lbs, he's on the smallish size. Leddy himself said he patterns his game after a couple of names that should be familiar:

Who does Leddy like among the current crop of NHL defensemen?

"I’d say Duncan Keith and Brian Campbell of the Chicago Blackhawks because they’re both really good offensive defensemen and both are kind of my style."

Obviously, Leddy is a long way off from the big show, but if it's Cambell who he's patterning his game after, if he does eventually make enough progress, he could prove to be Soupy's replacement in the very distant future.
Even before reading BReynolds' scouting report, I qualified this deal as a win for the Hawks. While Barker may turn out to be "a thing", it wasn't going to be here, and in return, the Hawks got real value for both this year's playoff push, and for the future. And, most importantly of all, a fair amount of cap relief for next season. While it remains to be seen just what and how much of it that Johnsson contributes to an already solid and deep defensive corps, I'm ready to give Hawks' GM Stan Bowman high marks already at first blush for this deal. So good luck in Minnesota, Cam, and welcome to Chicago, Kim.