Wild bank on Barker

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Cam Barker figured his days with the Chicago Blackhawks were numbered.

With the team opening the vault to lock up stars Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith not to mention signing free agent Marian Hossa in the off-season it was evident there wouldnt be enough dollars to go around.

Therefore Barker, a $3-million player with two years left on his contract, became expendable and he was traded to the Minnesota Wild for Kim Johnsson and Nick Leddy in mid-February.

I knew it was going to happen sooner or later, Barker said.

Whether it was now or in the summer, they have to unload some guys because they need to shed some salary.

But I guess any time it happens, youre going to be a little surprised.

Barker, 23, has played in just two games with the Wild since getting traded: one before the Olympic break and one after.

The timing of the trade was actually good, he said prior to the Wild facing off against the Oilers Friday night.

There was one game before the break, so I just went there after the trade, played the game and then had the break to let it all soak in and then go from there.

He scored in his Wild debut in a win over the Vancouver Canucks and picked up an assist Wednesday in a 4-0 win over the Calgary Flames.

Barker already has a plus-five rating with his new team.

Its been pretty good so far, I know a lot of these guys from before, which is always good coming in, he said.

I think they want me to be an offensive guy, chip in offensively and keep playing my game, so thats what Im going to do.

A former third overall pick of the Blackhawks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Barker had five goals and 11 assists heading into Friday night.

He spent parts of four seasons with the Blackhawks, collecting a career-high 40 points last season.

Hes come in and given us a shot in the arm on the back end, said Wild head coach Todd Richards.

Hes a big body that has some poise with the puck, some patience. And because hes a bigger body hes able to separate guys from the puck in the corner a little bit easier.

He and Johnsson are two different players. Johnsson is a more fluent skater as far as getting up the ice and getting into the zone, where Barker is more of a guy that will go in the corner and knock you off the puck. Hes also shown some talent offensively and is helping us in that regard.

Despite being 13th in the Western Conference standings after the Olympic break, the Wild were just three points back of the eighth and final playoff spot.

They hope the addition of Barker gives them much- needed grit to their back end, helping them make a push to the post-season.

We feel we added a player that can help us out, said Richards.

It wasnt a case where we were reaching for names in a hat and pulling one out. When youre negotiating with a team, if youre giving up something, you want something in return. His size helps us. In todays game it seems like everyone is getting bigger and bigger and if you can find that combination of size, speed and skill, youre going to be a pretty good team.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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