Is Tyson Barrie expendable after this season?

Edmonton Oilers Tyson Barrie #22 (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Edmonton Oilers Tyson Barrie #22 (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

Edmonton Oilers defenceman,Tyson Barrie, has taken a bit of a dip in numbers from the previous season when he led the league in points by a defenceman and got Norris trophy votes. In nine more games this year, Barrie has two less goals and 10 less assists than last year. Dipping from 48 to 36 points is noticeable but not the end of the world. He’s projected to get 45, which if he makes it is pretty close to what he was last year.

There are two much bigger factors in Barrie’s performance though this year – Cody Ceci and Evan Bouchard. Especially since the coaching change, both players have leapfrogged ahead of him in the depth chart, to the point where Barrie is now the PP quarterback on the first unit PP however plays down in the third pairing at even strength.

Last season Nurse and Barrie formed one of the NHL’s best duos from the blueline, but as Barrie relapsed defensively at the beginning of the season he was moved to the second pairing in favour of a shutdown guy in Cody Ceci forming a great top pairing with Nurse.

Then when Bouchard made the team Barrie was constantly shuttled back and forth between the second and third pairings, depending on Dave Tippett’s whims on who he wanted to play there. Since the coaching change, Barrie has maintained his position on the first unit PP, but at evens has pretty much been stapled to the third pairing

If Barrie were making $1-2 million per season this wouldn’t be an issue, but having a guy who makes $4.5 million on your third pairing is a bit out of whack spending wise.

There’s a lot of arguments you can make for trading Barrie or not trading him either way.

Trade Tyson Barrie

Thanks to LTIR the Oilers are currently just over $6 million over the cap. Oscar Klefbom’s $4.1 million takes up most of that but the Oilers need to curb their cap space come the offseason.

They’ll have some money coming off the books – Kris Russell, Kyle Turris, Josh Archibald, and trade deadline pickups Brett Kulak and Derrick Brassard. All of these guys together will subtract $5.737 million of cap space if we let them walk.

If, as expected, we let Mikko Koskinen walk and replace him with Stuart Skinner, that’s an additional $3.75 million off the books, then add on another $1 million in cap space increase to the cap ceiling and that’s $10.487 million of cap space freed up.

Problem solved, right? Not so much. The Oilers will need to re-up Puljujarvi, Yamamoto, Ryan Mcleod, and Evander Kane. Depending on what Kane signs for, the Oilers will probably need most of that for those four players, never mind trades and signings.

There’s also the fact that Nurse’s extension will cost the Oilers another $3.65 million, so they need to find cap space for that too before next season when it kicks in.

If the Oilers could find a way to dump Zack Kassian at full cap hit, that would pay for most of that, but it’s still going to be tight.

Oil On Whyte
Oil On Whyte /

Want your voice heard? Join the Oil On Whyte team!

Write for us!

What would really help give the Oilers a cushion of cap space is if they traded Barrie for a cheaper guy for the third pairing. Of course Kulak plays both sides, they could also re-up him as a free agent and then promote one of Broberg or Niemelainen to replace Kulak on the left side, as internal options.

Every good team has to make these types of decisions sooner or later. Pittsburgh regularly dealt away depth guys in salary dumps for cap space, as has Tampa Bay (let’s ignore the latter’s creative use of LTIR). Chicago had to as well, when they were a Cup contender. How many times did they trade and re-acquire Andrew Shaw and Brandon Saad?

There’s also the fact that you could make a case that Bouchard has taken Barrie’s spot at evens, so in this not-so-unusual scenario, a prospect has usurped the spot of a veteran. It happens all the time in the NHL. The only thing to do now is unload the veteran to gain the cap space.

There’s also the attractiveness of Barrie as a trade chip. Not only is he a proven puck mover, he’s also a proven PP quarterback, and he plays the right side, which always has less guys available because most NHL players are right handed and thus shoot left. So you have a guy playing a position with lower supply with not as many players available which will naturally drive up the price.

There’s also the work Dave Manson has done with Barrie this season to improve his defensive play, which has only served to drive up his price as the player has become more attractive in trade.

There’s a lot of different ways Holland could go here. He could simply re-sign Kulak for the right side (he plays both sides) and concentrate on picks and prospects exclusively (maybe even a first rounder as a centerpiece), or go all prospects, or he could ask for a warm body as an outside higher who’s cheaper than Barrie and get one pick or prospect.

Either way, Barrie will be an attractive trade piece who will net the Oilers a lot in trade.

Keep Tyson Barrie

The same arguments to trade Tyson Barrie are the same arguments for why he’s valuable to the Oilers. They need a true right shot guy for the third pairing, and Barrie gives them a puck mover on every pairing (the other two being Bouchard on the second and Nurse on the first).

Not only is he great for depth, 30 or 40 points are not easy to replace, especially on the right side. They would also lose their first unit PP quarterback, also not something that’s easy to replace. Technically you could promote Bouchard to the first unit and use Nurse on the second, but Nurse has been tried on the PP and he’s not as good there, Bouchard and Barrie are both better options in that spot. Nurse only gets about 25% of his points on the PP, while Bouchard and Barrie are both closer to the 50% mark. Not to mention Nurse plays enough minutes in the game, we don’t need to burden him with more.

Also, as we saw in the Minnesota game the other night, Bouchard is only a full time rookie this season and is still making rookie mistakes on D. If we trade Barrie we don’t have a safety valve for him, because if Bouchard regresses we’d only have Kulak or an outside hire we’d be crossing our fingers on swapping spots with him.

Bottom line for the Oilers

I honestly don’t know what the answer is here. Barrie is a great part of the team but it’s hard to overlook the haul we’d get in trade for him, not to mention the fact we do definitely need the cap space. This is going to be a tough question Holland will have to answer come the offseason.

Next. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Will Have A Huge Impact In The NHL Playoffs. dark