For a couple of days, there were rumors surrounding a trade that would send James Wisniewski to Chicago for defenseman Cam Barker. I have made little to no effort to hide my displeasure with Wisniewski, and Arthur, you have stuck to your opinion that while Wiz can be effective in the proper circumstances, his body type and disregard for his own health make him unworthy of a serious contract. So tell me, did Bob Murray make a mistake by not making this trade happen?
No, he didn't. From the terms of this deal, I think Murray was clearly outbid here, and recent reports from the Daily Herald have him actively turning down any deal involving an additional player. Ultimately, Johnsson is a better rental than Wisniewski, and the Ducks couldn't afford to give up a prospect at Leddy's level, even with the blueline depth they have in the cupboard.
The rumored straight-up deal, Wisniewski for Barker, was good for both sides. Wiz gave Chicago a player that knew their system while moving a critical 3M contract to alleviate their cap woes for next year. By acquiring Barker, Anaheim would cast its lot with a bigger, smarter defenseman, and thus a defenseman whose basement value was higher, while avoiding RFA negotiations with a player who wanted a longer term and/or more than 3M. But if Anaheim gave up more than Wisniewski, say a Sbisa or a Gardiner, then it would be paying too much for Barker.
At the end of the day, Wiz for Barker wasn't the best deal Chicago could get. In fact, that was a deal that implied that the rest of the league had the Blackhawks over a barrel for their cap woes next year, forcing them to take whatever they could get. And as the Indian head has proven all season, NO ONE has them over a barrel. This is a shrewd move, and it really took advantage of what was out there. I don't know what else Murray could have done. Maybe he gets this deal done with Tallon, but I can't imagine that this year's front office could be sweet-talked into a deal with the Ducks when there were better offers out there.
I agree that Murray just got outbid and that there's no way he could have paid that price for Barker. I think that's what makes not getting in on this trade so much harder to take as a fan. The Barker trade was exciting, as it seemed like the opportunity for the Ducks to get their hands on a young defender who had a couple years on his contract and would probably come at a cheaper rate than Wisniewski post negotiation/arbitration. Not to mention the Ducks wouldn't really be losing anything in the exchange. Sure, Wisniewski has better offensive numbers than Barker this year, but Barker has fallen out of favor and is not getting the same TOI that led him to 40 points last year. I think that Barker could find a way to return to his previous production while occupying our Top 4, and the guy has the size to be the plow in front of the net we've been missing.
I know Murray got outbid, but I can't help but wonder if maybe there's a part of this we're missing. Wisniewski for Barker straight up might not have been enough, but how good did the extra player have to be? Did it have to be someone of Leddy's caliber? If Murray hesitated once again to make a very influential deal, then we find ourselves once again questioning his leadership. Being outbid is a tough thing to take, but Murray is running out of chances to prove that he can make moves that move the organization in a consistent, or even coherent, direction. This might have been the start of something along those lines. I'm beginning to wonder if Murray will make anything happen come trade deadline time other than helping another team march to the Cup.