Cam Barker, Patrick Marleau

Can Cam Barker get his career back on track in Edmonton?

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The Chicago Blackhawks parted ways with a lot of talent after they won the 2010 Stanley Cup, but there was one should-be “star” who didn’t even make it that far: Cam Barker.*

The Blackhawks wisely got rid of the so-so offensive defenseman’s pricey $3.08 million cap hit by trading him to the Minnesota Wild for what amounted to an expiring contract in Kim Johnsson on February 12, 2010. After putting up 40 points in just 68 games played 2008-09, Barker’s play was already slipping a bit in Chicago; he managed 14 points in 51 games before that trade. His game really fell off the map in Minnesota, though, as he only scored seven points in 19 games to finish the 09-10 season and was downright pitiful in 2010-11 (five points in 52 games with a -10 rating).

Rather than stomaching the final year of that weighty contract, the Wild opted to buy out Barker during this off-season. Barker and the Wild can sugar coat that decision by saying it was “just business” but the ultimate message is that the defense-starved franchise paid Barker to go away.

Luckily for Barker, the hockey world tends to give top-five draft picks a chance or two at redemption (at least when they’re still young – Barker is just 25 years old). The even more defensively decrepit Edmonton Oilers decided to take a short-term risk on Barker, signing him to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

I must admit that I snickered at the idea on first impact, especially since Barker is known for being a bit of an … adventure in his own end. The dollar amount seems a tad bit high for a player whose stock is at an all-time low, but the one-year deal makes it an intriguing gamble for Edmonton. Let’s not forget that Barker hasn’t had a lengthy fall from grace; he’s only two seasons removed from being a fairly prolific contributor on the Blackhawks blueline. Barker also dealt with some injuries last season, so it’s possible that a cleaner bill of health might help him rebuild his career.

This Winnipeg Sun piece reveals that Barker is optimistic about bouncing back during what could be a pivotal season in his still-young career.

“You’re hurt, you’re coming back from injuries, it’s really tough to get the ball going,” he said. “And I didn’t start off the season that well. A lot of contributing factors, but I’m feeling healthy now, completely good to go.

“It (being released) worked out for the best, for me anyway. I end up in a great place in Edmonton.”

(snip)

“It’s a huge year for me,” he acknowledged. “It’s when I reestablish myself and get back to where I was two, three years ago.”

While I’d wager that Barker probably won’t heal many of Edmonton’s wounds, it’s not outrageous to wonder if they might benefit quite a bit from the gamble. If nothing else, Barker will get every opportunity to sink or swim on a threadbare Oilers defense.

* -Scoff all you want at the notion that Barker should be a star, but he bares the weighty historical burden of being drafted right after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in 2004.

Goalie nods: Backup extraordinaire Montoya gets the call versus Wings

Florida Panthers goalie Al Montoya watches game action against the New Jersey Devils' during the second period of a NHL hockey game in Sunrise, Fla., Saturday, Oct. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
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The Florida Panthers have had no problem giving Roberto Luongo the odd night off this season. That’s because Al Montoya has been one of the best backups in the league.

Montoya (8-2-1, .931) will get the call tonight in Detroit, with Luongo (23-13-5, .930) expected to start tomorrow in Buffalo.

The Panthers have the highest team save percentage in the NHL, at .926 (which includes empty-net goals).

“They both give us a chance to win every night,” Panthers d-man Brian Campbell told the Miami Herald recently. “Both make huge saves for us at times. You need consistent saves every night and they both bring it. Montoya gets put into a tough spot a lot of times and nothing seems to change.”

Beyond Montoya, other NHL backups with particularly good numbers include the Flyers’ Michal Neuvirth (.933), the Kings’ Jhonas Enroth (.931), the Blues’ Brian Elliott (.930), the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss (.929), and the Wild’s Darcy Kuemper (.928).

Petr Mrazek will start for the Red Wings. He used to be Detroit’s backup, but he’s since surpassed Jimmy Howard for the starting job.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider for the Devils at MSG, versus Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers.

John Gibson for the Ducks in Pittsburgh, versus Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins.

— Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning in Ottawa, versus Craig Anderson for the Sens.

Blues put Pietrangelo on IR with knee injury

Pietrangelo-Coyle
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Not good news for the St. Louis Blues — the club announced this morning that defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been placed on injured reserve with a right-knee injury. He’ll be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Pietrangelo suffered the injury Saturday in a knee-on-knee collision with Minnesota’s Charlie Coyle.

Based on the timeline provided, the Blues will be without their leader in average ice time (26:40) until at least the end of the month. St. Louis plays 10 times between now and Feb. 29, which also happens to be the trade deadline.

The big question, of course, is whether Pietrangelo will be ready to go upon re-evaluation.

The first day of the playoffs is April 13.

Update:

Related: Armstrong wants Blues to get healthy before any trades are made

“I wonder if that’s Crosby, what happens?’ — AV upset after McDonagh concussed by Simmonds

Alain Vigneault
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Alain Vigneault took another shot at the NHL’s Department of Player Safety today.

This time, the Rangers head coach was upset about the lack of supplementary discipline for Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds in the wake of Saturday’s altercation with New York captain Ryan McDonagh.

“An All-Star player gets sucker-punched, goes down,” Vigneault said, per The Record. “I wonder if that’s (Sidney) Crosby, what happens? What are the consequences? And, on top of that, a player breaks his stick, throws it at the referees. In the rulebook, that’s automatic. It’s three games. Nothing happens. It’s not even on the sheet after the game.”

Simmonds’ punch left McDonagh concussed and unable to play tonight versus New Jersey, with no timetable for his return.

Earlier this season, Vigneault voiced his frustration with the league after Rangers center Derek Stepan suffered broken ribs in Boston on a hit from Bruins forward Matt Beleskey.

Vigneault felt the hit was late.

“I remember Aaron Rome in this building, .6 seconds late, getting suspended four games in the Stanley Cup Final,” the former Vancouver Canucks coach said, recalling the contentious 2011 final.

Beleskey was not suspended.

Crosby, Karlsson and Trocheck are NHL’s three stars of the week

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.

From the NHL:

Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.

Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.

Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.

Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse