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Columnist
Hawks looking at Ducks' Wisniewski
By Barry Rozner | Daily Herald Columnist

James Wisniewsk

 

Associated Press

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Published: 2/6/2010 6:21 PM | Updated: 2/6/2010 6:24 PM

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The Blackhawks are interested in bringing back an old friend.

According to a team source, the club has been talking to Anaheim about ex-Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski, perhaps willing to part with Cam Barker in return.

Wisniewski will be a restricted free agent after pulling in $2.75 million this year, and could jump into the $4 million range next season, which means the Hawks probably wouldn't re-sign him.

At the same time, they could move Barker's $3.1 million salary for the next two years, something that seems inevitable between now and next fall as they try to solve a nasty cap dilemma.

A fan favorite during his four years here, Wisniewski is a solid fifth defenseman who would add an edge to the Hawks' blue line, along with a strong shot from the point.

Meanwhile, Barker fills more of a long-term need for the Ducks, and perhaps a change of scenery would do him some good.

The 23-year-old Barker is two years younger than Wisniewski, but so far hasn't lived up to his billing as "the next Denis Potvin," a label courtesy of former Hawks GM Dale Tallon after Barker was selected third overall in the 2004 draft.

Coach Joel Quenneville has obviously lost confidence in Barker this year, taking away playing time and power-play opportunities.

The turning point for Barker may have come last spring when he looked slow against the Red Wings, while Niklas Hjalmarsson held his own as well as any Hawks defenseman in the Western Conference finals.

Hjalmarsson has moved up to the second defensive pairing this season, while Barker has gone the other direction.

Wisniewski, who was traded to the Ducks for Sami Pahlsson a year ago, figures to be a popular name as the trade deadline approaches, and there are several Western Conference teams, including San Jose, looking for depth on the blueline, so it's no slam dunk that the Hawks will get him back.

The bigger and much better move for the Hawks would be to get their hands on the Ducks' Scott Niedermayer, but at least as of Saturday, the Hawks didn't appear to be in on the four-time Stanley Cup winner.

The Hawks were among a dozen or so teams that spoke to Atlanta about Ilya Kovalchuk, but they never made it as far as serious discussions.

Boston was the only team that came close to matching New Jersey's offer for the superstar winger.

Meanwhile, Hawks GM Stan Bowman has yet to make a big acquisition since he inherited the roster last summer, and you have to think he's itching to do something to help the club prepare for the postseason.

Just how big a move - goaltender? - and when remains to be seen, but there aren't too many shopping days left.

The roster freeze begins Friday and runs through Feb. 28, so any club that doesn't make it happen before the Olympics, will have three days left before deadline after the Winter Games end.

That should make for a wild couple days once the players return from Vancouver.

With the Hawks expected to make a run at the Stanley Cup this year, Bowman's interest in Wisniewski is a signal that he is willing to tinker with the roster.

Whether it becomes something much bigger than that remains to be seen.

brozner@dailyherald.com