Edmonton Oilers: Looking at expiring contracts – UFA edition

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins #93, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Tyson Barrie #22, Edmonton Oilers
Tyson Barrie #22, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Right D Tyson Barrie, expiring contract $3.75 million

Normally a defenceman who leads the league in scoring amongst blueliners and is a shoo-in to be one of the finalists for the Norris trophy wouldn’t even be questionable in terms of re-signing.

However, this is a special situation (this is a story that is familiar to most if not all of you, so forgive me for the rehash). Barrie came here with his career on the downward slope after a terrible year in TO with the Leafs. Not much was forthcoming for him so he signed a cheap short term contract with the Oilers so he could play with the McDrai duo, gain his confidence back, and ultimately get a longer term, lucrative contract from another team.

Well, it worked and then some. He ended up with 8-40-48 in all 56 games last season with a +4 – the first time he’s been on the plus side of the ledger in six seasons. I think we all knew a bouceback was a pretty good possibility, but to lead the league in points for defencemen was not something any of us anticipated. As all GMs do with free agents, someone is bound to look at the surface and back up the Brinks truck.

However, look beyond the surface and there could be pause for anyone to sign him – even the Oilers, considering how much demand he’ll garner in the free agent market.  For one thing, there’s this. For another, there’s the flat cap. Third, his partner was usually Darnell Nurse, who finished with a +27. With Barrie’s improvement in +/- it’s worth asking how much of this improvement was because of Nurse and how much was because of Barrie himself.  I could look up the WOWY stats, I suppose, but honestly this blog is going to be long enough and with enough stats as it is.

So, between the McDrai duo and Nurse, it would be almost impossible for Barrie NOT to have a good season. Also, as good as Barrie is he’s also known for making the occasional suspect defensive read.  He’s a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde blue liner – he’ll give you lots of offence in the right situation, but he’s also just as likely to give up something as he is to give you something. Just because it worked out for him here doesn’t mean it’ll work out for him everywhere.

Also, it’s worth noting that Barrie’s offence dried up in the playoffs, as he went 0-1-1 in the 4 games against Winnipeg with a +1, which oddly enough is better defensively than the regular season, despite playing 30:28 per game. You’d expect better from a Norris Trophy candidate. As you would expect, Barrie spent next to no time on the PK and was 4th on the Oilers in PP time, at 3:30 per game. However, 1 thing that surprised me in writing this part of my blog is while Barrie isn’t much of a hitter, he was 4th on the team in blocked shots with 59. How about that? He can do something else besides move the puck well.

It’s also worth pointing out that Evan Bouchard deserves to be an everyday player, as IMO he showed this past season. Whether that’s in the third pairing or the second is up for debate, but there’s a good possibility he could be in the second pairing by the end of the season next year.

Sign both Barrie and Larsson and you effectively bury Bouchard in the short term. Also, if Oscar Klefbom comes back next year – which he just might – how do you spread around the minutes with three out of four top four guys as puck movers and one out of two in the third pairing? It’d be a juggling act, for sure – and lest we forget, Barrie was brought in to make up for the loss of Klefbom in the 1st place. If Klef comes back, wouldn’t that make Barrie redundant? Probably.

Signing Barrie (or not) might be Holland’s second most important off season decision next to bringing back Nuge.

Chances he’s re-signed – 30%.  Barrie fits in well on this team, but the likely story is because he’s one of the biggest names on the free agent market, he’s a luxury we can’t afford.  We don’t want to become Western Canada’s answer to the Leafs, do we? No. My strategy for Barrie has been unaltered with the passage of time – if he does sign a big money contract elsewhere at the beginning of free agency, good for him. But, if time ticks down and Barrie still doesn’t have a contract, then you see how he’s feeling later on in the off season and maybe bring him back for a modest amount. Same strategy we used for Kris Russell and his initial off season before coming here.

Projected contract – 3 years, $16.5 million ($5.5 million per). This is the max I could see Holland signs him for here – and again, that’s IF he signs here at all, which he probably won’t as he seems pretty committed to testing free agency.