When I heard news of the Cam Barker trade to Minnesota, that line from “Rounders” immediately came to my mind. A career with the Blackhawks that began so promising as the 3rd overall draft pick ended with a trade many saw coming — and felt was necessary.
Coincidentally, Barker scored his first career NHL goal against the Wild in 2007 in his first stint with the ‘Hawks. From there, the series of call-ups and demotions had fans wondering when Barker would finally begin to realize his potential and become a mainstay with the Blackhawks.
He begain last season in Rockford but asserted himself with a solid offensive campaign, scoring 40 points (6G, 34A) and finally seemed poised to be a solid second-line defenseman for a contender. After the Dale Tallon qualifying offer debacle, the ‘Hawks felt so inclined to keep Barker because of his potential and solid 2008-09 season that they signed Barker to a 3-year, $9.25-million deal.
Then Niklas Hjalmarsson came along. Hammer’s stellar play at the end of last season, through the playoffs and at the beginning of this season sent Barker to the third pairing, and his minutes decreased.
It was the beginning of the end for Barker in Chicago.
When Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith got their big contracts as planned, Barker was the name most often mentioned as a cap causality. Today, it finally happened.
I feel bad for the guy. He came in with high expectations and always seemed to get the short end of the stick. But the reality of it is that Barker didn’t play well enough to keep his spot on one of the best teams in the NHL. Some people are traded because of their contracts, some people are dealt because of their play. In Barker’s case, it was both.
Chatting with McClure of Second City Hockey, he said Barker can be a solid top-pair defenseman — like Brent Seabrook is for Keith. I personally feel he’s going to be a great fit in Minnesota and wish him the best of luck.
Overall the Blackhawks got the better end of this deal, and Stan Bowman should get some credit for pulling off this one. Kim Johnsson is a solid power-play, puck-moving defenseman who will get some solid minutes. The key to the deal is Nick Leddy, a solid defensive prospect who has been mentioned as a “world-class skater” in many scouting reports. Fork at Hockee Night has a good rundownof Leddy and the deal.
While I’m somewhat sad to see Barker go, it had to happen at some point. He played his way out of Chicago, and hopefully this will kick him in the ass to improve his play in Minnesota.