Cam Barker was undeniably bad in his first whole season with the Minnesota Wild. As an offensive defenceman, he put up 5 points in 53 games with a -10. Putrid. I believe Nathan's review attached to his (well-deserved) F grade last year was simply "Fuck Cam Barker".
Because of this, there are reports from Russo that the Wild is willing to buy out the last year of Cam Barker's contract, which only a third of his contract would count on the Wild's cap this season. On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer. Dude sucked ass, and showed not a whole lot of effort. So if you can dump him for less than the going rate of most players, you do that, right?
I don't think so. As bad as Cam Barker has been last year, I think buying out his contract would be a big mistake.
Since I'm taking a leap anyway, why don't you go follow me after the jump.
I'm not going to sit here and defend Cam Barker's performance last year, because he was the hockey equivalent of a festering pile of shit. However, the fact remains that he's only 25. There's no denying the potential he had as a 3rd overall pick, and he's shown that he can be productive in Chicago and Minnesota, with some seasons logging 18, 19 minutes a night (at a younger age) with good PPG totals, and reasonable, if unspectacular defence.
There are only two reasons to cut him now, either you think he's making too much money, or you're just giving up on him. While Barker is making 3.25 million (cap hit of 3.08) next season, the Wild aren't going to get a big free agent in, and have about 12 million under the cap to fit 6 guys in. Even before buying out Barker, the Wild are looking at putting three guys in their lineup with 130 games between them (If Barker is bought out, Prosser will likely be the guy, making it 132 games between them). I don't expect this defence to be good right away. And in looking at the free agent class, there doesn't appear to be a guy that you could bring in that would match the upside that Barker still has, not for the term of one year and cost of three million.
Also, Barker's buyout will put close to one million dollars on our cap over the next two years (combined). I would rather bite the bullet on a guy with one year left at a not great, but livable price, given our cap flexibility, than defer any dead money to the cap in the future.
The thinking that I have is this: Keep Barker (you're going to be paying him anyway) in a Wild uniform this year. The team was not responsive to Richards, so the hope is that Mike Yeo can get through to Barker. The worst case scenario is that Yeo is unable to do so, and you cut bait on him later in the year, either by sending him to waivers or the minors. The best case scenario is that Yeo gets Barker to show more effort and play more soundly, and then the Wild suddenly have an asset on their hands that they can flip at the deadline (to recoup his value) in Pouliot-esque fashion, or have a defenceman that they want to keep around for the next few years (which wouldn't be bad, given the Wild's lack of blue-line blue-chips).
I just think, at this point, the potential good of having Barker around, even if it's unlikely, is worth suffering through the likely downside. It's probably easier for me to say this because I'm not spending money on him, in the form of being Leipold, or in having season tickets, but it's quite simple: The Wild are rebuilding, and it's going to take some patience, the defence is in flux, and there will likely be losing. If any team can risk having a half season of dead weight from a defenceman, it's a team like the Wild.
A team like the Wild simply isn't in a position where it should be giving up on 25 year old, former number 3 overall picks who have had decent seasons in the NHL before, no matter how bad last year was.