The NHL's Olympic roster freeze came and went about an hour ago while phones were ringing across the league, only a few deals ended up being consummated.
Despite only three moves being made, the roster freeze ends on February 28th at 11:59 pm EST, which means the groundwork for potential deals later on was likely laid today. The Matt Cullen(notes)-to-Ottawa deal kicked things off this morning and two other moves went down right around deadline time at 3 p.m. EST.
• Fulfilling their need for a legitimate enforcer now that Donald Brashear(notes) has been waived, the New York Rangers acquired Jody Shelley(notes) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a conditional sixth-round draft pick. The 34-year old Shelley will be an unrestricted free agent after the season and changing conferences gives him the chance to be closer to Colton Orr(notes) of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
• The day's most notable move saw the Minnesota Wild deal defenseman Kim Johnsson and the rights to Nick Leddy, their 2009 first-round pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Cam Barker(notes).
The Blackhawks have been dealing with salary cap issues since their summer signing spree of Marian Hossa(notes), John Madden(notes) and Tomas Kopecky(notes). Former GM Dale Talon complicated matters during the whole qualifying offers fiasco, of which included Barker's.
If that situation had been handled properly, the Blackhawks would have likely been able to save some of the $9.25 million that Barker ended up re-signing for and maybe he doesn't get traded today.
Barker, who is signed for two more season and has a cap hit of $3,083,333, joins a Wild defense corps that has three soon-to-be unrestricted free agents: Marek Zidlicky(notes), Shane Hnidy(notes) and John Scott(notes).
According to Michael Russo of the Star-Tribune, the trading of Johnsson means that Minnesota is going all-out to re-sign Zidlicky to round out their top two pairings.
For Chicago, It was only a matter of time before GM Stan Bowman began the process of shedding salaries to free up cap space. Johnsson's an unrestricted free agent this summer, so his salary comes off the cap, but according to CapGeek, Chicago is still committed to a little about $57 million for next season. More moves are likely to come and Chicago is expected to be active once the roster freeze ends.
• One team that was rumored to be making moves, especially after their letter to the fan base this morning, were the Florida Panthers. GM Randy Sexton said earlier this week that he was working on as many as nine deals in anticipation to 3 p.m. EST today. The only move Florida made was the Dominic Moore(notes)-to-Montreal trade last night. This afternoon, Sexton spoke with the Miami Herald's George Richards and explained the challenges some GM's around the league faced today:
"Some teams still have games to play and we're all under the CBA roster limitations and salary cap floors and ceilings. For some teams, they're at the roster limit and playing tonight or tomorrow and it's a challenge to manage things. It's a point of negotiating. You want the lowest price if you are a buyer, and you want to extract the highest price if you are a seller."
Sexton went on to say that Florida with be buyers and sellers at the March 3rd trade deadline depending on the player(s) that come up in talks. It's crunch time for the Panthers, a franchise that has been building towards making the playoffs for the past decade only to come up short each and every time. Sexton faces the challenge of trying to build a winning product in a non-traditonal hockey market for a team that just went through an ownership change. The fan base is frustrated and what Sexton is able to add to the roster will determine how much more Florida fans can be patient.