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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The Chicago Blackhawks began the process of clearing salary cap space for next season today before the Olympic roster freeze.

The Hawks traded defenseman Cam Barker and his $3,083,333 cap hit to Minnesota in exchange for defenseman Kim Johnsson and 2009 first-rounder (16th overall) Nick Leddy, a freshman defenseman with the University of Minnesota.

Barker, 23, was the subject of some intrigue last summer when Chicago failed to offer him and four other players qualifying offers by the deadline. As a result, the Hawks were forced to – in some people’s eyes – overpay for those players. The debacle helped lead to then-GM Dale Tallon’s firing and is now coming back to bite Chicago.

Both are puck-moving defensemen with sound offensive instincts, though neither is having a very productive season. While the Hawks don’t sacrifice much in the offensive zone, they will lose some physicality. Johnsson is two inches smaller and 20 pounds lighter and has virtually no physical component to his game.

The Wild, pushing for a playoff berth after early-season struggles, acquires the third overall pick from the 2004 draft who, despite having a down year offensively, has taken great strides over the past two years towards becoming a legitimate top-pairing defenseman.

Barker played 51 games for the Hawks this season, scoring four goals and 14 points and recording a plus-7 rating.

Johnsson, 33, is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. He’s a 10-year NHL veteran who had six goals, 14 points and was a plus-3 with the Wild this season. Leddy, 18, has played 19 games for the Golden Gophers this season, recording a goal and five points.

John Grigg is a copy editor and writer with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog appearing Tuesdays and the Wednesday Top 10.

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