Just before the NHL’s Olympic roster freeze deadline, the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild exchanged defensemen in a deal that could carry some fantasy value. Chicago sent defenseman Cam Barker to Minnesota for defenseman Kim Johnsson and prospect Nick Leddy.
For Barker, this deal likely creates fantasy value where there previously wasn’t any. He was averaging under 14 minutes per game on the Blackhawks’ third defensive pairing, and had not produced to the level Chicago management, and fantasy owners wanted. Johnsson was leading Minnesota in average ice time, though, so Barker will likely see an instant upgrade in playing time and expected production.
In Barker’s first game with the Wild, a 6-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks, he played over 19 minutes, scored a goal and was credited with three hits. In a deep league, Barker could carry some value as a fourth or fifth defenseman in March and early April this year.
Johnsson is an intriguing player from a fantasy perspective. He’s only owned in four percent of ESPN leagues, but might carry more value now that he’s in Chicago.
Consider that he was—somehow—+3 in Minnesota and played a lot of minutes. In Chicago, his minutes will go down but his involvement in the offense could go up. The Blackhawks look for their defensemen to jump into the mix in the offensive zone a great deal, and Johnsson scored a goal less than ten minutes into his Chicago career.
I wouldn’t expect Johnsson to put up numbers like Duncan Keith or Brian Campbell, but in a deep league he could be worth a spot as a fourth defenseman. With the finishers all over the lineup in Chicago, and the team’s expectations that defensemen can pass and shoot, Johnsson’s production should go up in March. He should also continue to have a strong plus-minus rating because of Chicago’s scoring as well.
Leddy has no fantasy value.
The Verdict —Neither of these guys should be your top defenseman. Or your second guy. Or even probably your third player, either. But if you suffer an injury, or need a matchup on a slow day, or just need depth, picking up either of these guys wouldn’t be a terrible idea.