In a flat cap world, value contracts will be key to success. A good place to find value, believe it or not, is the free agent market. Every year, players get undervalued and sign short-term deals that pay off big time for the team smart enough to get them to sign on the dotted line. It takes patience, these deals don’t happen on day one. They do happen, however.
Some times, a player hits the free agent market at the worst possible time. That’s exactly the case with veteran defenseman Tyson Barrie. A top-four defenseman with the Colorado Avalanche, Barrie struggled to adjust with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2019-20. Now, he finds himself on the open market after a down season by his lofty standards.
Could Barrie actually provide value to the Oilers as a free agent? There is a strong case to be made that this is a perfect marriage.
Why Is He Out There?:
On July 1st, 2019, the Avalanche and Maple Leafs hooked up on a big trade that sent Barrie east. Barrie, center Alex Kerfoot and a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft went from Colorado to Toronto in exchange for center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
The idea for the Maple Leafs was that Barrie would help stabilize and improve a weak defensive group. At the end of the day, Barrie just never really fit in with the Leafs. Barrie started slowly, and his offensive numbers took a big dive from established levels.
The Maple Leafs are expected to be a major player this offseason as they continue their hunt for an elite defenseman. Barrie is very likely to be allowed to walk as the Leafs chase after Alex Pietrangelo.
What Does He Do Well?:
Tyson Barrie is one of the better, more underrated offensive defenseman in the entire NHL. He’s mobile, can transport the puck up the ice, and has an exceptional first pass. Barrie has proven he can post strong offensive numbers when playing with skill, and he’s a real weapon on the powerplay.
Barrie had a ‘bad’ offensive season with just 39 points (5 g, 34 a) in 70 games with the Maple Leafs. Prior to that, Barrie had eclipsed the 50-point mark in both the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons.
Barrie has handled top-four minutes for almost the entirety of his career. Since 2014-15, Barrie has played at least 21:22 per game. He averaged 21:53 per game this past season with the Leafs, up six seconds per game over his 2018-19 time-on-ice.
Possession wise, Barrie has been strong pretty much over the entirety of his career. 2019-20 was no exception. Barrie posted a 53.8% Corsi For (3.1 rel) and a 52.1% Fenwick (1.4 rel) while starting 58.2% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
(All stats via hockey-reference)
Here’s a look at Barrie’s scouting report via The Sports Forecaster.
Has good instincts from the back end and plenty of mobility, plus excellent offensive ability and a good point shot. Is a huge asset as a quarterback on a power play at the NHL level. Lacks ideal size for the blueline position at the NHL level. Needs to add some bulk to be able to better defend against bigger forwards (and cope with injuries). Is not physical.
Where Should He Play / Where Will He Play?:
Tyson Barrie is not a perfect player. That said, he is a very good one and his main skills fit perfectly with the modern game. Barrie is short of being an elite defenseman and isn’t a number one, but he’s a lock to play top-four minutes and significant time on the powerplay. Any team signing him should expect top-four minutes and top powerplay duty.
In Edmonton, Barrie would instantly be the team’s top right-shot option, top offensive option and top powerplay option. His ability to move the puck and provide a threat from the point would be a welcomed addition to the Oilers attack.
What Will He Cost?:
When I watch Tyson Barrie play, and when I look at the numbers, I see a player worthy of both dollars and term. It appears that NHL General Managers and media personalities disagree. Barrie, after a ‘down’ season in Toronto, is likely to sign a one or two year contract to ‘rebuild’ his value.
Barrie’s last contract, signed on July 31st, 2016, was a four-year deal with an AAV of $5,500,000. He’s probably not getting that dollar amount this time around.
Would a one-year, $4,000,000 ‘prove it’ deal be enough to get Barrie to sign? It wouldn’t shock me.
GM Ken Holland wants to add some mobility and puck moving ability to the back-end. There is no free agent that can do that quite like Tyson Barrie. In a lot of ways, Barrie is a perfect fit for the Oilers. He’s a right-shot defenseman that can move the puck and transition from defense to offense.
Barrie could add an element that, right now, the Oilers just don’t have. If the contract is workable, the Oilers and Barrie could be a perfect fit for the 2020-21 season.