Tyson Barrie is Available and the Vancouver Canucks Shouldn’t be Ruled out as a Landing Spot

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. 

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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%
Tyson Barrie 2015-16 1.1 2.8%

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.

Conclusion

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. 

  • pheenster

    I have to agree, when I heard they were going to move this player I was shocked. He’s the type of d-man that every team wants.

    I think there’s a great chance for a clever GM to snatch this player away from the Avs for less than he’s worth. Obviously Jim Benning has no chance of pulling off something like that, but it will be interesting to see which GM makes the trade and what the return is.

  • pheenster

    I suspect an offer would have to start with Hutton and one of their young forward (Horvat, Virtanen, McCann, Boeser).

    I’m not sure the Canucks have enough high end young talent to pull this off.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Hutton would be available in a trade like this because of what Barrie could bring. That said, if the hyphen and Eberle are indeed available, the Avs would be stupid to ignore that offer — just as the Oilers would be stupid to offer it.

    The Avs would have Duchene, McKinnon and the Hyphen as there three centres, with Eberle as a winger. Of course they would need some defence help, but that team would skate.

    While Barrie would unreservedly help the Oilers, giving up a potential first line centre like the Hyphen and a winger that can put up first line numbers seems like an overpay. More likely would be the Hyphen and a lesser prospect, or Eberle and the #4. RNH is a valuable commodity, and Eberle has his virtues despite what’s gone on during rebuild phase 2 in the Chuck.

    For the Canucks to acquire Barrie something along the magnitude of Hutton, McCann and a draft pick would seem like a good starting point. McCann is no throw in, but he’s no sure thing. Hutton seems like he is at least a rock solid bet to be a top 4 guy for a long time. And the draft pick would likely be in the first three rounds, though if I am GMJB I am avoiding trading my 5th overall.

    Of course all of this is rosterbating, and I have zero GM experience, so it’s just an opinion from a fan. But it was fun typing it out, hahaha.

  • pheenster

    Canucks would have to deal a lot of assets to get this guy. So not worth it. Maybe an offer sheet (costing the 1st and 5th) but we can’t deal away multiple high end assets.

  • pheenster

    This is exactly the sort of player Edmonton is desperate for.

    Chances of us outbidding them? Zero (unless we overpay to the point it hurts rather than helps the team).

    Question is, what would the Avs do with a 4th overall pick? Chuckie, Dubois or something else?

  • pheenster

    What is the value of Edler? I have always thought that the Canucks should trade him (with possible package/Salary retention) for a young center… RNH from Edmonton or Strome from AZ or Reinhart from Buffalo…

    • pheenster

      Edler has a NTC, and he’s repeatedly said he won’t waive it.

      While Barrie is a nice player, I just don’t think the Nucks are in a position to trading away young assets and early draft picks at this time.

      If I am Colorado, I am starting the asking price of the 5th pick and Tanev, and I just don’t think that makes sense right now.

  • JuiceBox

    “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.”

    Much as I dislike trading draft picks, I would make that deal. First of all, $5.5 million would be a bargain for a player like Barrie, and second he would fill one of the two most gaping holes in the Canucks’ line-up (alpha d-man) – the other of course being a first line center to replace Henrik.

    I suspect the Canucks will be in the draft lottery again next year. I doubt they will make the playoffs, given the improvement likely of teams like Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. It’s just hard to see where the dramatic improvement would come from necessary to make up for the declining production of their veterans.

    But given the vagaries of the draft lottery, it’s iffy that they would get a player of Barrie’s quality, even with a high pick.

    Make the deal if it’s there, but don’t sell the farm to do it.

  • JuiceBox

    I don’t buy into the “don’t sell the farm” mentality on this one. Barrie is a 1st pairing defender in every sense of the word and he will be a staple on this blue line for the next decade. Making a trade for him would be a huge boost for the team and really get this rebuild moving in the right direction. This is exactly the type of high-end talent and blue line overhaul the Canucks desperately need. Swapping 1st round picks with Colorado would be a good starting point and from there no players should be off the board. I have no problem giving up Horvat, Virtanen, or Tanev to make this deal happen.

    • Dirty30

      Swap picks — absolutely. But not with Bo in play. We have very few scorers, decent centres or young talent to replace the Sedins.

      First pick, Hansen or other roster forward, plus prospect and take a bad salary (if they have one) even if it means other picks and/or players in play going either way.

      We can’t move Edler, but with Hutton’s play and Tanev’s injuries, I could give up the latter as part of a deal.

  • Ho Borvat

    I can’t see Benning giving an arm and a leg to land Barrie. We have Subban in the minors who is basically the same size and has far better goal numbers than Barrie in junior and the AHL. Whether or not he can translate that to the NHL is still an unknown but the book on him (according to Travis Green) is that he has the offensive side down, just needs to tweak his defensive skills. I just can’t see giving away a Horvat/Boeser or Virtanen (plus something else) when potentially we have a comparable waiting in the wings.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    If you want to get him, go ahead for the right price. But that prices DOES NOT include Tanev. He has been our best defenseman since Ohlund left, best defensive awareness I’ve seen in a while. I get that Deputy Dan has a big fanbase but Tanev is so incredibly sound, its just amazing his defensive instincts. We would be foolish to trade him. Unless the plan is to tank for 3+ years.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    Canucks aren’t in position to be spending to aquire assets. Kick the tires but the focus should be rebuilding through the draft and acquiring more picks.

  • Friendly Neighbourhood Canucks fan

    you can’t trade horvat or tanev, end of story. these are foundational pieces. mccann, hard to say at this point, but i think we wait and see this year, a bird in the hand and all. virtanen, i think he might be expendable. i just don’t see the upside on him and i think his perceived value is higher than his potential, actual value. i know virtanen wouldn’t fetch a barrie, but maybe it starts the convo?

    • pheenster

      No way is Jim Benning trading Jake Virtanen for Tyson Barrie. Just not happening.

      If Barrie makes it to free agency, lay out a big offer sheet. Like 6 years $36-million big. Maybe with a poison pill or two. But don’t give up live assets for the guy. Not worth it at this point.