With a break in the men's tournament today (don't forget US v Canada in the Women's Gold Medal Game this afternoon!) I thought I'd give my thoughts on the big Wild trade made before the "Olympic Roster Freeze." As you know I have been critical of Johnsson's salary for the last few years. I believe Johnsson's salary is about the last of the deals made by Dummy Doug that Fletcher has to flush away. After this trade I can confidently say this team is now officially Chuck Fletchers bed to lie in, and he may now be judged accordingly for the teams success. Well I guess it would be more fair to start judging him based on the next full season...
1) To Preface, I know I have an anti-Johnsson bias
I think Johnsson is a good puck handler, but I also believe he is not superior in that skill above an average defensman to a point where he ever should've commanded $5M/year. All defensemen, whether bruisers, shooters, or whathaveyou, need to have good puck handling skills. For that matter all forwards need that as well and it helps with goaltenders also, so I just don't see how superior puck handling skills alone commanded such a premium salary. Johnsson is certainly contributing more this year.
2) This year has been his best with the Wild
He is shooting for the net more often this year (he has 90 SOG through 54 games, compared to 84 for all of last year, and he hasn't taken more than 100 since putting up 189 the season before the lockout with PHI). But Johnsson lacks in hits and he doesn't protect the crease well enough either to justify his pay. It's clear Johnsson was never going to be part of the team's new direction, and Fletcher did good to deal a player he probably had no intention of signing.
3) Good for Chicago, for sure
At the same time Chicago has defenders that fill Johnsson's weaknesses and he seems to me he could be the role player that help Chicago's back end enough. Chicago also dumps salarly (Barker was one of the players that ended up being signed at an inflated price because of the Blackhaws qualifying offer mishap last summer). In that sense Johnsson makes a great rental for a serious contender like Chicago. The only real knock on the Blackhawks is their goaltending has certainly underachieved. Yet they still have been toe-to-toe with perennial Western Conference regular season leaders San Jose. If they make a deal for a goaltender, or if one of their current ones (Nimi or Huet) play to potential, I think the Stanley Cup may find its way to the Windy City.
4) Good for Minnesota?
(taken verbatim from a facebook convo with my younger brother)
" The Upside...
*$2M Salary dump is a big deal when the team is already so close to the cap.
*Barker is 10 years younger with 2 years left on a contract, he has potential to be a great asset instead of keeping Johnsson when he's going to be difficult to sign.
The Leddy throw-in, Giving up last year's first round pick doesn't make me happy. I'd be much more comforatable with this deal if they traded away lower round picks from this coming draft. "
In short, I would be more comfortable if the Wild didn't give up on their prospect, they gave up to get a young player. Though Barker undoubtedly has upside, the high price Fletch paid makes this deal risker than it should be. But of course, the main criticism of the previous GM is how risk averse (okay cheap) Dummy Doug was.
5) Very loosely related to the Wild, the Kovalchuk trade
Speaking of reasons to criticize Riseborough (though I think this will probably be the last chance I have as it relates to the wild) did anyone see how much the New Jersey Devils played to rent Kovalchuk? After turning down a reported $10M a year deal to resign with Atlanta, the Thrashers traded the player they couldn't sign and in return got defenseman Johnny Oduya, forward Niclas Bergfors, a junior prospect, and a first-round draft pick. Three players (albeit 2 NHL's and a prospect) and a first round pick. Remind me how many players and picks Riseborough got for Gaborik once it became apparent he wasn't signing here? That right NONE! Yes, I know Gabs was injured at the deadline, and I think Kovalchuk certainly commands more than Gaborik should, but still we could've probably got a prospect or two for a rental, but ended up with nothing.