Just because the Edmonton Oilers can potentially sign defenseman Tyson Barrie on a discount deal to return to the team, it doesn’t mean they should.
The fact that possibly signing Barrie at a team-friendly contract again is even an option might come as a shock to some Oilers fans. But, a recent report by The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun suggests there’s a chance Barrie decides the extra million he might make as a free agent isn’t worth leaving a comfortable situation and a good fit. LeBrun writes:
“If the Oilers are willing to do a three-year deal worth between $4.5 million and $5 million a season, and I’m not saying they are, but let’s say they offer that: If I’m Barrie, I sign it. Sure, there could be another million a year elsewhere, and that’s something, but the “fit” is best in Edmonton. Just my two cents.”source – ‘LeBrun: Which defencemen could change addresses, or stay put, this upcoming offseason?’ – Pierre LeBrun – The Athletic – 06/23/2021
While $4.5 million on a three-year deal sounds more than fair for Barrie, what is the real cost associated to bringing him back?
Barrie’s Potential Dilemma
LeBrun argues that there’s still a belief among the marketplace that Barrie being so one-dimensional hurts his standing as a free agent. There are, as LeBrun notes, “consistent concerns over his defensive game”. So, while Barrie might get more from another team because he led the NHL in points by a defenseman during the 2020-21 regular season, he’s not necessarily going to hit the home run he thought he might.
LeBrun believes Barrie would seriously contemplate even just a fair offer by the Oilers. He could get $6 million from a team like Seattle or from another club really looking desperate add to their blue line, but the scribe wonders if Barrie is really ready to leave a team he flourished with and a comfortable situation, all over $3 million total? He’s not so sure.
The Oilers Potential Dilemma
If word comes back to the Oilers that Barrie is open to $4.5-$5 million per season, GM Ken Holland should certainly consider it. Even as a one-dimensional blueliner, Barrie is a good weapon to have and he proved it last season. He offers the Oilers strong power play options and he’s a good puck mover for forwards like Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. He’s a veteran with some NHL playoff experience and, on a lower-cost, three-year deal, there’s no real pressure to slot Barrie in your top four all season long.
As much as the analytics crowd loves to beat up on Barrie, you can’t ignore his point production. In the right situations, he’s extremely useful and the coaching staff showed they had no qualms about using him a lot.
That said, bringing in Barrie creates a bit of a domino effect for a few players and it creates issues for the Oilers when it comes to checking off every item on their offseason to-do list.
Stunting Evan Bouchard’s Progression
The biggest issue might be that signing Barrie potentially sets back Evan Bouchard’s transition into the NHL. Last year can be forgiven (sort of) on the account of a pandemic and the Oilers lack of opportunity to move Bouchard in and out of the AHL. This coming season, there are no excuses.
Bouchard needs to play. While Allan Mitchell of The Athletic writes that the offensive-defenseman could start in a lower pairing and get spot minutes on the power play, Barrie’s presence creates an issue there. Mitchell believes that Bouchard is good for 35 points if he plays all 82 games and 15 minutes per night. If he plays more and gets on the man-advantage, he could be good for 40 points. Not the case if Barrie is around.
His entry into the NHL is most unusual, and because of it, I believe fans may be missing a story that in all likelihood will be breaking news by Christmas… The Oilers have an impact offensive defenceman signed for 2021-22, and his cap hit is $863,000 with another $850,000 bonus money possible.
This is the most substantial puck-moving defenceman to be drafted by Edmonton since Paul Coffey.source – ‘Lowetide: Why Oilers defenceman Evan Bouchard is poised to exceed expectations’ – Allan Mitchell – The Athletic – 06/25/2021
What Mitchell is suggesting is that with Barrie signed at $5 million, we may never know how good Bouchard could actually be.
Right-Shot Defense is Not a Priority
Unless the Oilers don’t sign Adam Larsson, or they choose to move Ethan Bear, a right-shot d-man is not where the Oilers need to focus their offseason attention. They need top-six wingers, a left-side second-pairing defenseman and potentially an upgrade in goal. Signing Barrie, even at a team-friendly number, takes away from Holland’s ability to do all of those things.
This is not to say the Oilers shouldn’t put together the deepest roster and have experience and skill at every position. That would be an ideal problem to have. Still, Edmonton should consider what they can’t do if they sign Barrie and remove $5 million from their salary cap reserves. It wasn’t long ago that not signing Jacob Markstrom allowed the Oilers to land Barrie, sign Mike Smith and bring in Kyle Turris. While the Turris deal didn’t pan out, the Barrie and Smith deals certainly did.
Sometimes, the blessing from the moves you don’t make are as plentiful as the ones you do. I’m actually a Tyson Barrie fan and at the right number, I take time to consider bringing him back all day long. Holland simply needs to make sure he knows what he’s giving up, even if he’s able to get Barrie at a million dollars cheaper than the next guy.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”