As the NHL trade deadline approaches, the Colorado Avalanche find themselves at a bit of a crossroads. A team that everyone had assumed would be sellers at the deadline, now looks like a legitimate playoff contender and one that won’t necessarily be looking to trade away their veteran rentals.
Blake Comeau and Mark Barberio are two players that are unrestricted free agents this summer. They are both guys that could fetch a bit of an overpayment this time of year. Now that they are so drastically exceeding expectations, the Avalanche will have to make some hard decisions on these and other players as the deadline approaches.
One name that is particularly interesting is Tyson Barrie. When he went down with a broken hand last month, it was assumed his absence would create a huge hole in the lineup.
That hasn’t been the case. The team is playing its best hockey with Barrie out of the lineup, and are proving that they can be successful without him.
TSN has had Barrie as part of their deadline “Watch List” for a few weeks now, now Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman has also brought up the idea of trading Barrie.
“Speaking of Barrie, he took the morning skate in a non-contact jersey in Toronto. Curious to see what will happen with him. I could see other clubs trying to pry him out of there, since Colorado is on a tear while he’s absent. Everyone needs puck-moving D.”
There are a number of Avalanche fans that would be happy to move on from Tyson Barrie and his $5.5m cap hit. He is a polarizing player in the way that Jake Gardiner is in Toronto, or P.K. Subban was in Montreal.
Barrie is a player that likes to take risks. He wanders out of position and is at best an average defender in his own zone. These are aspects of his game that make some fans dislike him. They are also the things that allow him to be an elite offensive defenseman.
When Barrie got hurt on December 23rd, he was trailing only John Klingberg of the Dallas Stars for points by a defenseman. A month later, he sits 3rd in points per game behind Klingberg and Brent Burns.
Whatever you think of Barrie’s all-around game, there is no debating that he is an elite offensive defenseman and would be a huge addition to any team looking to make a run in the playoffs.
What makes him even more appealing as a trade target is the fact that he is a right-handed shot.
What complicates things is that he is a right-handed shot.
While the Avs have been winning games with Barrie out of the lineup, they have been doing so with a very lopsided lineup. Of the team’s regular defenders, Erik Johnson is the only other right-handed shot. Barrie’s presence brings balance to the lineup in a way most NHL coaches prefer.
The right side of Colorado’s depth chart is scarce after Johnson and Barrie. The only other righty under contract is Nicolas Meloche - a 20-year old second round pick that is working his way through his first season as a professional.
Of course, there are the ‘Big Two’. Cale Makar and Conor Timmins are both right-handed defensemen. They are both 19 and are likely to turn pro at the end of the season. Both have a very high ceiling, but neither should be counted on to make a huge impact on the lineup next season. One of them might make the NHL, but it’s unlikely they would be able to step in and fill the hole created by a Barrie trade.
These are all things Joe Sakic is going to have to consider whenever a team calls about the availability of Tyson Barrie.
It’s highly unlikely that the Avalanche are actively shopping Barrie. He’s a valuable piece to the team, but there is no doubt that teams are calling about him. His name is out there for a reason.
Barrie has two more years left on his contract after this season, so there is plenty of time to work with, should the Avs decide it’s time to move on from the veteran defender.
Like with Matt Duchene, Joe Sakic is going to be very selective if he decides to trade Tyson Barrie. Moving the defender in exchange for a young top-6 scoring winger could make a lot of sense. This past summer, The Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres were both calling about Barrie. Given their roster makeup, both teams are likely still interested. If Sakic were offered a player like Sam Reinhart in exchange for Barrie, it’s something he’d have to very seriously consider.
At this point it’s all speculation, and we can be sure that nothing is going to happen until Barrie gets back into the lineup. But Barrie’s name is out there and as we get closer to this year’s trade deadline, we shouldn’t be shocked if the Avs have yet another blockbuster up their sleeve.