It must have been a heckuva physical.
Defenceman Cam Barker, who agreed to attend the Vancouver Canucks’ training camp on a “tryout,” signed a one-year contract with the National Hockey League team on Sunday morning before ever hitting the ice with teammates.
The $700,000 deal gives the Canucks’ experienced depth on their blueline and Barker the chance to improve the trajectory on a career that began as a third-over all draft pick, behind Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, in 2004.
“I don’t know if I’d say I’m surprised, but I’m thankful for the opportunity and I’m ready to go,” Barker told reporters after undergoing his physical at Rogers Arena. “Obviously, I know where I want to be and what I’m capable of, and I’ve got to go out and prove (critics) wrong and play well from the get-go.”
The 26-year-old from Winnipeg, who now lives in Penticton, is on his fourth NHL team in less than three years. The Minnesota Wild, which lost a lopsided trade when it acquired Barker from the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, bought out his contract before last season.
Barker signed with the Edmonton Oilers, but his season was undermined by an ankle injury that required surgery. He missed four months and managed just two points in 25 games for Edmonton. Barker essentially auditioned for NHL teams during the lockout, playing on a 25-game contract with the Texas Stars in the American League before joining Canada’s team for the Spengler Cup in Switzerland.
Several NHL teams were interested in signing him, but Barker said he chose the Canucks because of the quality of the team and its long-standing interest in him. Vancouver attempted to sign him after the Minnesota buyout.
“You learn a lot about yourself,” Barker said of the challenges in his career. “I’ve worked extremely hard to get back to this point and I’m going to make sure it counts.”
General manager Mike Gillis said he believes Barker is a genuine NHL player who just needs to find the right fit, and cited the example of Vancouver winger Chris Higgins, whose career was in freefall before a trade to the Canucks two years ago.
Barker’s signing gives Vancouver a full defence: Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Jason Garrison, Chris Tanev, Keith Ballard, Andrew Alberts and Barker. It means former Vancouver Giants’ defenceman Kevin Connauton almost certainly will be spending the rest of this season with the Chicago Wolves.
The Canucks on-ice sessions were to begin this afternoon.