It appears as though the big moves the Edmonton Oilers are going to make are all done. That means it is very likely Tyson Barrie will be with the team next season and help from the third line and the power play.
Keith’s Retirement Helped the Cap Situation
Having Barrie on the Oilers is a luxury the Oilers couldn’t afford, but then suddenly could after Duncan Keith announced his retirement. It couldn’t have come at a better time as Keith still had one year left and was going to have a cap hit of $5.5 million-plus. Even if the Oilers were to move Barrie, his cap hit of $4.5 would have still left the Oilers with $1 million left to work with. In these times with whom the Oilers had to sign and re-sign, that makes a big difference.
As the Oilers were able to sign Evander Kane to a steal of a contract, bring back Brett Kulak on a great deal considering he’ll be playing top-four minutes for at least the first season, sign Jack Campbell and have a tandem making less money than their previous one, and offer their restricted free agents qualifying offers, Ken Holland used the money available very wisely. And as Jesse Puljujarvi is expected to be traded, that just projects the Oilers to have even more space to work with.
Since Philip Broberg, the Oilers’ prospect that is almost definitely making the lineup next season, is able to play both sides, he would have been able to slot in whether Keith was gone or Barrie was gone. Now he can play his stronger side and the Oilers can have time to find who will be there next season. The Oilers have one more year of Evan Bouchard’s entry-level deal, so the cap hit of Barrie’s will surely have to go to Bouchard immediately with how he’s played.
Barrie is Still an Effective Piece on the Oilers’ Back-End
Barrie is still expected to do what he does best for the Oilers, and that’s play the point on their power play which remains one of the best in the league year after year. He did have some rough patches as did the power play as a whole, so the Oilers gave Bouchard an opportunity on the top unit. He did well and even though Barrie got his spot back in time, the Oilers know what they have in Bouchard to replace Barrie in due time.
It’s not very likely to happen for a ton of time next season, but when Barrie and Kulak were together, they were very effective and the best pairing the Oilers had down the stretch and into the playoffs. Sure, they weren’t facing the top lines as much as the others, but they shut down lines and helped produce offence. Kulak is expected to play with Bouchard on the second pair which means Broberg and Barrie will be partners. That may not work as well as they would hope, but then the Oilers can always revert back to Kulak alongside Barrie which should be very reliable.
If Broberg impresses enough early in the season as Bouchard did last season, Barrie and Kulak could end up playing a lot more together than predicted, meaning the Oilers would be in a great position not only having two players on their entry-level deals in their top-four, but also a very effective bottom pair that can do more than most teams’ can.
Easier to Replace Barrie Next Offseason
Whether that is replacing him internally or externally, it will be easier now to replace Barrie and what he brings to the Oilers with another year of development and player movement around the league. Maybe a veteran defenceman who is signed until the end of this coming season sees the success the Oilers are having and the core/culture around the team and wants to join a winning cause.
The Oilers don’t have a ton to replace Barrie this soon, especially not on the right side, but a player like Dmitri Samorukov could come out of nowhere and surprise. I wouldn’t count on it, but we may start to see a trend with teams not qualifying decent young players with upside and the Oilers could take a stab at one.
A player like Erik Gudbranson would be a solid addition to the back-end and the type of player the Oilers would be looking to have on their third pairing instead of another offensive defenceman in Barrie. Unfortunately, the market wasn’t right and Gudbranson got $4 million per year for four years. That wouldn’t make any sense since the Oilers’ goal is to have an actual third-pairing defenceman who earn as such play on their bottom pairing.
In the end, if the Oilers can afford to pay Barrie next season which it looks like they can with no problems, then it is better to have that skill and what he brings to the lineup rather than just trading him for something that won’t help the Oilers right now. Edmonton is in their window to win a Stanley Cup, so they need all the best pieces they can fit under the cap.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
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