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Blackhawks Fri Feb 12 2010

Blackhawks ship out Barker

As the NHL's Olympic trade freeze began at 2 p.m. today CST came word that the Blackhawks agreed to a deal to send defenseman Cam Barker to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for defenseman Kim Johnsson and defenseman prospect Nick Leddy, who is currently at the University of Minnesota. The deal frees up salary cap space for the Hawks, as Johnsson is an unrestricted free agent, while also helping to shore up an area of concern for the current campaign.

Johnsson is a 10-year vet who has 43 games of playoff experience, something a young Hawks team can find value in. While he doesn't put up lots of offensive numbers, he was leading the Wild in time on ice and was a +3 for a team that has been near the basement of the Western Conference all season long. With the Blackhawks recent struggles on their back end, Johnsson can provide a veteran tandem on the 3rd line and on the penalty kill with Brent Sopel

Barker was the #3 overall pick in the 2004 entry draft, and was expcted to join Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith as cornerstones on the blue line. After notching 40 points last season, his slow development and defensive liabilities this year caused him to lose playing time to Niklas Hjalmarsson. Coupled with the $3.1 million per year Barker signed through 2012 following last summer's qualifying offer snafu, his price and play made him expendable to a Chicago team that has a number of free agents to sign this summer. The Hawks also begin paying long-term, high-paying extensions to Patrick Kane, Jonathon Toews and Duncan Keith next season.

The Hawks have a pair of games this weekend before a two-week break for the Olympics, welcoming the Atlanta Thrashers to the United Center tomorrow before traveling to Columbus for a 4 p.m. Valentine's Day Matinee. After a grueling 8-game cross-country road trip and the team's first 3-game losing streak, Chicago has bounced back to win two straight against the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars, though both games were tight, 1-goal affairs. A pair of wins this weekend will help the Hawks keep pace with the San Jose Sharks for the top spot in the Western Conference and send the team's 6 Olympic representatives to Vancouver on a winning note.

(Tailgate will provide coverage of the Blackhawks' Olympic exploits when play begins on February 16, as well as general coverage of the U.S. team.)

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