Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it appears as though the Colorado Avalanche are at an impasse with a top of the lineup talent and ready to cut bait. Assuming the validity of this report from Elliotte Friedman, it appears as though Tyson Barrie is this year’s sacrificial lamb, following in the footsteps of Paul Stastny and Ryan O’Reilly before him.
“You know what, I do think Tyson Barrie is going to go.
“I did a game there where Montreal was in Denver. Don Meehan was there at the time with Craig Oster. They’re the Newport guys who handle Barrie. I just got the impression from everybody involved that they weren’t really even in the same ballpark.
“Knowing the way they finished their year, I’ve got to think it’s very likely he moves on.”
This isn’t the first time their dirty laundry has wafted its way into other’s yards. Reports leaked as recently as last fall, indicating the two sides were at a fork in the road. Time hasn’t helped matters, clearly, and it appears as though the seeds of discontent are on the precipice of bearing fruit. The question then becomes whether the Canucks should or can pluck the low-lying defender.
How We Got Here
Barrie, 24, is a right-handed, high-producing transitional defenceman with high-end offensive talents — particularly at even strength, where his skating and high-end first pass are especially important. Though Barrie doesn’t possess the hardest shot, he’s a savvy thinker with the puck and has an uncanny ability for finding passing lanes in the offensive zone.
Looking through the six games of Avalanche zone entry data I’ve collected, Barrie leads their blue line by entries per sixty (18.1) and carry-ins per sixty (5.7), with a tame 16.7% of entries failing.
Players of Barrie’s ilk are incredibly difficult to find. This is why they’re a hot market commodity until a long-term contract is holding them in place. Barrie is the latest entrant to an already saturated market on the blue line with Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Patrick Wiercioch, to name a few of the available pieces.
Barrie is an exceptional case in this class, in spite of the restricted free agent status he shares with the names I’ve highlighted. For starters, his qualifying offer will be in a league of its own, at $3.2 million – a high value for a player Barrie’s age. Barrie is also eligible for salary arbitration – a status he shares with Patrick Wiercioch – which can prove to be an especially nasty order of business for everyone involved; and very likely a wedge driven between Barrie and the Avs as they enter this off-season.
The Avalanche, with the constraints of their internal salary cap in tow, are well within their rights to fear that process. Once an arbiter has determined the dollar value, the team can either agree to pay the player in question or let them walk in free agency – see Antti Niemi and Clarke MacArthur.
A cursory glance at Barrie’s closest comparable player seasons (using the www.war-on-ice.com similarity score tool) reveals a venerable murderers row of puck-moving defencemen. Shea Weber, Chris Pronger, David Savard, Drew Doughty and Alexander Edler all make the cut and the quality of player hardly lessens as the list continues. The man is getting paid.
Can or Should the Canucks Acquire Barrie?
The Canucks haven’t necessarily made clear their plans for next season and beyond. Not in plain language that involves contention or a full-on rebuild. Barrie would fit either of the two goals and therein lies the beauty of bringing him into the fold. Barrie is just 24, entering the prime of his career and will likely remain there for the foreseeable future.
So, yes, Barrie very definitively could be an excellent fit. Determining that much is the easy part, though. What is more difficult is determining whether that fit will exceed the bounds of the value spent and gained.
Rare are the trades that involve a right-handed, high-scoring, transitional defencemen, though, so that could prove a tricky exercise — we likely won’t know Barrie’s value until he’s dealt. Seth Jones appears, at first glance, a worthy candidate for the measuring stick treatment. That cost the Columbus Blue Jackets Ryan Johansen — a first line centre that can do just about everything well.
Given the Avalanche’s sordid history on the market, though, one can reasonably wonder aloud whether the Canucks can play the quantity for quality card — spoiler: quality always wins. The Avalanche did, after all, deal Ryan O’Reilly to the Buffalo Sabres for a paltry package which included Nikita Zadorov, Mikhail Grigorenko, J.T. Compher and a high second-round pick.
Unlike the Avalanche before them, the Canucks haven’t a high-end defensive prospect with the pedigree of Zadorov. They do, however, possess a deep stable of prospects that perhaps make up for their lack of a high-end ceiling with NHL readiness. Correct me if I’m wrong, but does Andrey Pedan not fit the mould of what Patrick Roy wants out of a blue liner? We’re far from putting the finishing touches on this deal, but there’s a start.
The Canucks have other, less savoury options at their disposal, too. I’m talking, of course, of the possibility of an offer sheet. Perhaps the Canucks can make an appealing offer anywhere south of $5.48-million, which would cost them a first and third-round pick in the 2017 draft. The main selling point being he can negotiate unrestricted free agent seasons separate his restricted years.
Basically, the Canucks would be buying themselves a three-year window of exclusivity to negotiate with Barrie, and oh, by the way, he’s playing for them in the meantime.
There’s a great deal of soul searching involved in going this route, though. If Canucks general manager Jim Benning sees the Canucks as a playoff contender next season, this route of acquisition absolutely makes sense. Barrie carries a massive probabilistic edge in being an impact player well into the future, compared to what the middle first and third round picks offer.
Barrie’s Next Contract
Making an apple to apple comparison on dollars and cents between players operating in a $70-million-plus salary cap world, as opposed to, say, the $50-million one they occupied many, many seasons ago doesn’t serve any real purpose. So, for the purpose of this exercise, I’ve curated a list of players who register highly on Corsica.Hockey’s similarity score calculator, using a five-year comparable data set. I then culled the herd to only include players entering restricted free agency at the time of their contract.
|Player||Year of Signing||Dollars & Term||Salary Cap Percentage||P/60||Cf%Rel.|
|John Carlson||2012-13||6-years/$23.8 Million||6.6%||1||0.1%|
|P.K. Subban||2012-13||2-years/$5.75 million||4.7%||0.8||4.1%|
|Alex Goligoski||2012-13||4-years/$18.4 million||7.6%||0.9||4%|
There are several layers to this cake. The Stars had to buy out unrestricted free agency seasons to secure Goligoski’s services, which explains the high percentage among these comparables relative to cap percentage. The Capitals, too, bought a single year of Carlson’s unrestricted free agency. P.K. Subban is the youngest among them but was walked into arbitration with his bridge contract.
Let’s assume Barrie’s willingness to mortgage one, or even two years of unrestricted free agent seasons. You’re probably looking at a number slightly north of Goligoski’s 7.6% salary cap consumption — let’s say 8% for the sake of this exercise. If the salary cap remains stagnant, that’s a dollar hit of close to $5.75-million. We’re looking at $6-million if the escalator raises the cap to $74-million.
That would bring the Canucks to about $65.5 million committed to next season, with 34 contracts on the books — not accounting for RFA’s, et al. That leaves the Canucks about $6-million or so to address needs elsewhere, of which there are plenty. It’s not a perfect science, but I think we’ve found the ballpark figures here and where they might fit within the Canucks salary structure. This is what it will take in terms of a long-term commitment to Barrie.
Players like Barrie shouldn’t be available period. That he is is representative of managerial malpractice on an entirely new level, even for the Avalanche. If the Canucks can secure his services, without emptying the farm entirely or parting with what few high-end pieces they have therein, it would be an absolute coup.
Whether by way of trade or lucrative offer sheet, the Canucks are looking at a cash investment on Barrie of somewhere in the neighbourhood of $5.5-million for the next few years, at least. Cost dependent, the move could make a great deal of sense. It would definitely throw a huge gust of wind in the sails of whatever the Canucks are doing.