The watch for the missing piece of Edmonton’s defense got a
bit of an update via an indirect source on Wednesday. Edmonton didn’t sign a
defender. Their competitors haven’t signed or traded one either. On Wednesday
the Colorado Avalanche signed 22 year old center Mikhail Grigorenko to a one
year $1.3 million dollar deal.
With Grigorenko avoiding arbitration and taking that deal at
a very reasonable rate, it turns Colorado’s full attention to reaching a deal
with their last remaining RFA, Tyson Barrie, with nine days before the beginning
of his arbitration hearing. This is more than enough time to come up with a
deal, if the Avs are willing to commit the money to Barrie.
Colorado now has $6.459 million in projected cap space with
only Barrie as the remaining member of their team in need of a new deal. Of the
players we can identify as the core of their team, Barrie is the last member
not signed to a multi-year deal. MacKinnon is signed until 2023. Duchene is
signed until 2019. Landeskog is signed until 2021. Soderberg is signed until
2020. Johnson is signed until 2023. Varlamov is signed until 2019. If they want
Barrie to be part of the core, they have the space to make that work.
After this season, they will have decidedly more space.
Iginla’s $5.333 million will come off the books and so will the Brad Stuart
buyout of $3.6 million. That’s a lot of cheddar to go with the almost $6.5 million
they already have and core players are already locked up except for one. As an
Oiler fan, the Grigorenko contract does not make me happy. It leaves the Avs
with too much money to work with.
Now the only question is whether or not the Avalanche will
be willing to pay Barrie the money he can command in arbitration or on the
market. To be clear, Barrie isn’t on the open market just yet. He’s an RFA
and isn’t eligible to receive any offers because he elected for arbitration. He
does, though, have a strong case to get paid in arbitration and you can be sure
that both he and his agent knows it.
Tyson Barrie is one of the best offensive defensemen in the
NHL, period. Over the last three seasons Tyson Barrie is 13th in
total points by defenders in the entire league with 140 in 222 games. Over the
same period of time he is 11th in total 5v5 points with 71
(sandwiched between Giordano and Weber). Expressed as a per 60 minute metric,
Barrie is seventh with 1.15 P/60, (sandwiched between Giordano and
Subban). Points get paid in the NHL. It’s hard to score and as a RHD he’s
already a hot commodity, even if he wasn’t one of the very best scoring defenders
in the NHL.
Frankly, I can’t see a good reason for the Avalanche to walk
away from Barrie. He’s not only an adept scorer, but he is one of the few
defenders with a positive Corsi For relative to his teammates over the last
three seasons. He plays 20+ minutes a night for Roy’s club. And, he’s been the
anchor on pairings with very weak left halves. I don’t care how big of an
Avalanche fan you are, there is no way to characterize Barrie’s partners as
anything other than underwhelming. His two most common partners over the last
three years have been Nick Holden (1519:39 mins 5v5) and Nate Guenin (1143:40
mins 5v5). He’s producing well while playing with guys who aren’t even in the
same ballpark as far as talent goes.
Despite all the reasons that the Sakic/Roy Avs have to value
Tyson Barrie, they’ve done their best to make it appear like he’s on the
outside looking in with them. This covers everything from playing hardball with
his salary demands, cutting his minutes at one point this year, and Roy purportedly
saying that in a perfect world Barrie would be the number five defender on the
team. That’s not exactly screaming “We want you, Tyson!”
It’s also true that the Avalanche have seven defenders already
signed to NHL deals not including Barrie, but Erik Johnson is the only righty of
the signed players and some of that group like Gelinas, Bigras, and Zadorov aren’t
exactly coming off of strong campaigns. Despite those contracts, the Avalanche haven’t
built a particularly strong group on the back end. Walking away from Barrie
looks like a terrible move.
The only things in Edmonton’s favour are as follows:
1) This is the summer where GMs are making brutal trades
2) The Avalanche are not known for being a cap team
The first point is just hoping that this trend of bizarre
player movement continues except this time in Edmonton’s favour. The second is
that the Avalanche will be forced to pay near the upper end of the cap if they
want to keep Barrie. They don’t have a choice. He’s entering the prime of his
career, he’s productive, and he’s arbitration eligible. The Colorado Avalanche
will have to commit to being well over $70 million dollars on the cap if they
want Tyson Barrie this season.
With Grigorenko signed the only real question for the
Avalanche to ponder is whether their last remaining RFA ought to be a part of
their core. They have the space to lock him up. For Edmonton’s sake let’s hope they
decide he isn’t worth it. The Barrie Watch continues, but recent developments
have put Colorado in a great position. Let’s hope they screw this up somehow.