Hawks deal Barker for Wild's Johnsson
The way Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman saw it, once the Minnesota Wild made defensemen Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy available there was no need to wait until the NHL's official trade deadline on March 3 to finalize the deal.
"Why wait when the only thing that could happen in two weeks was they change their mind," Bowman said Friday after trading defenseman Cam Barker to the Wild for the veteran Johnsson and Leddy, Minnesota's No. 1 draft pick last June. "We knew Johnsson would be a highly sought-after player at the deadline."
The addition of the 33-year-old Johnsson gives the Hawks another experienced puck-moving defenseman who can also play big minutes if needed and against the opposition's top lines.
"We got a player who is a veteran guy, who has played in a lot of pressure situations in the Olympics and playoffs, who is really steady, can move the puck and play both sides," Bowman said. "He just gives us a lot more options. He can play in the top two if needed and he has been their match-up guy in Minnesota."
Johnsson could allow coach Joel Quenneville to cut back on the big minutes Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook play.
"That's going to be up to Joel how he uses him, but he can play against other teams' top players," Bowman said. "He's also a good penalty-killer, blocks shots and kind of does it all."
The deal for Johnsson beat by minutes Friday's roster freeze that is in place through Feb. 28 because of the Olympics.
According to a source, the Hawks at first targeted Anaheim defenseman James Wisniewski but that Ducks GM Bob Murray wouldn't include a second player with Wisniewski for Barker.
Bowman said the deal for Johnsson wouldn't have gone down without Leddy included.
Leddy, a fabulous skater, was selected 16th overall by Minnesota in the last draft. He's a freshman at the University of Minnesota and last season was named Minnesota's Mr. Hockey after a standout prep career at Eden Prairie High School.
"He was actually a big part of the deal," Bowman said. "We tried to trade up to get him; we like him that much. He has speed and plays the style of game we like to play here."
Bowman sounded as if this likely would be his one big trade prior to the March 3 deadline.
"I'm not actively pursuing anything," Bowman said. "I'm satisfied with our team, but if something comes up we'll listen. We're certainly comfortable with our back end now. I don't think it's necessary to do anything."
That goes for goaltending. For the second time in the last month Bowman gave Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi a strong vote of confidence.
"I understand why people are talking about goaltending, but we have the best goals-against average in the league," Bowman said. "We just don't give up many goals."
The trade for Johnsson also gives the Hawks some salary cap relief going into next season. While Johnsson has a $4.85 million cap hit, it's a contract that expires after the season while Barker has a $3.1 million hit for two more years.
Blackhawks game day
Atlanta Thrashers at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.
TV: Channel 9
Radio: WGN 720-AM
What to watch: The Thrashers are a different team to play against now that they have traded Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey. They went into Friday's game at Minnesota 4 points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Antti Niemi makes his third straight start in goal for the Hawks.
Last meeting: The Hawks beat the Thrashers 3-1 last February.
Next: Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena, 4 p.m. Sunday.