Another offseason and another contract dispute. The Colorado Avalanche are getting far too familiar with the process of fighting with one of their top players on a contract. Who can forget the never ending saga that was the Ryan O’Reilly soap opera? Well this time the Avalanche find themselves at odds with Tyson Barrie in an eerily similar contract standoff.
The Past Repeating Itself
They say that those who don’t learn from their past are doomed to repeat it, and the Avalanche may be living proof of this. I’m not going to go as far as Darren Dreger did, saying that it seems the Avalanche are in a constant state of battle with their star players, because that’s just factually inaccurate. After all, Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Semyon Varlamov, and Erik Johnson all seemed to be able to come terms with the team easily enough. Even so, it is impossible to deny that having this type of contract standoff with top players so close together definitely looks bad for the team.
Now all the same comments about the team are out there. The Avalanche are “cheap” and don’t value their top players enough to keep them. Front office is in over their heads and are making a huge mistake with the “Duchene cap.” This is really where the same issues began with Ryan O’Reilly and where things can go very wrong for the Avalanche from a publicity point of view.
People don’t know the numbers being tossed around on either side, so they fill in the blanks themselves. When they do that, especially with how silent the Avalanche have always been surrounding contract discussions, it is easy for the team to come off looking cheap. There is no aura of infallibility surrounding the Avalanche anymore and the fan base frequently judges against the Avalanche preemptively now. If they treat the process with Barrie the same way they did with O’Reilly, the Avalanche will come off looking even worse.
What to Do Differently
First of all, and I know this goes against everything that the Colorado Avalanche franchise has ever done, I would leak the offer they made to Barrie at the draft. Joe Sakic reportedly met with Barrie’s agent at the NHL Draft and proposed a long term offer. If the team truly believes that their offer is a good one, find a way to make it public so the fan base and everybody else can see what the offer is. Suddenly the ball is back in Barrie’s court, especially if that offer is anywhere near the $6 million AAV mark. Now the question turns from, “Why can’t the Avalanche get their key player signed?” to “Why is Tyson Barrie not taking this contract?” From Colorado’s perspective, you simply cannot win an argument when the first question leads the way.
Second, they need to continuously reach out to Barrie and his representation. They need to meet several more times between now and when arbitration occurs and really try to get a deal done before they get to the door, and publicize those meetings like crazy. Otherwise they are essentially kicking the can down the road and everybody knows that. As it stands, people look at the silence between both sides and assume the Avalanche have set a cap on whatever cheap offer they made and are refusing to move. More than anything, the Avalanche need to change the narrative about the team.
How to Make Things End Happily
I can think of a couple of ways to do this. First, shop him like crazy and get a big return. This wouldn’t be such a huge issue if it wasn’t obvious that everybody else in the league was interested in Barrie and would want him on their roster. So if there simply is no way to get a good contract done with Barrie, work those phones and get a haul in return. Bob McKenzie has been trumpeting that Barrie will definitely be traded for what seems like a lifetime now, so you know the interest is real. If the Avalanche were to be able to work a package for Barrie that could pull a top six winger, a middle pairing defenseman, and a high draft pick then the Avalanche might have to really think about it. What the deal would look like in its entirety is subject for debate, but it would have to be quite a return.
The best way for things to end happily is to just get a deal done and make the workings of it very public. Exactly what Barrie’s fair value is is another debate, as well, but it looks like it is somewhere between $6 million and $6.5 million AAV on a long term basis. If the Avalanche can get this done before arbitration, and really show that they are working to make it happen, perhaps we can finally out to rest this narrative that the Avalanche are cheap.