The wheel continues to spin from around the national media, as they continue to play their game of “Which Colorado Avalanche Player is Going to be Traded This Offseason?” On a positive note for Avalanche fans, it at least seems like the attention has shifted away from Matt Duchene being traded. This time, Elliotte Friedman, of Sportsnet, has suggested that Tyson Barrie is “definitely in play” for trade talks this offseason. Naturally, this has resulted in an explosion of rumors surrounding which teams would be the best candidate to make a play for the young Avalanche defenseman. There’s just one problem though, the Avalanche have absolutely no reason to move Barrie.
First of all, let me just say that I have the utmost respect for guys like Friedman. Their job is to work the rumor mill and try to suss out what rumors have merit and which are just a smoke screen. After years of dealing with it, they often get a good feel about what is and isn’t legit, yet they still can be wrong. In this instance, I do believe Friedman is off base and partially because the whole premise of this comes from a feeling he had when he attended a game in Denver back in February.
Friedman states, and I’m paraphrasing here, that based on a conversation he had with Barrie’s representatives he got the feeling that the two parties weren’t close on numbers and that, with the Avalanche finishing poorly, Barrie would move on. There are a couple of issues here; first being the finish of the Avalanche. Yes, the Avalanche fizzled out in a big way towards the end of the season, but there is this prevailing myth, being perpetuated by far too many, that the Avalanche finished the season in a much worse position than they actually did. While the Avalanche did finish out of the playoffs, the Avalanche were the first team out of the Western Conference playoffs for the second straight season. While the disappointment was real, the picture of the Avalanche being so far out of the running is just plain false. While the Avalanche have a way to go before being considered a legitimate Stanly Cup contender, they are a contender for a playoff spot.
The second part of this is the timing. The Avalanche have a history of not dealing with their free agents, especially their restricted free agents, until the season is over. They have broken from this a little bit in recent years, when signing Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog to long extensions before their contracts were up. The difference here was that these were deals that were easy to get done; both sides obviously wanted the situation to work out and they just made it happen. The more difficult ones have always been left for the summer, so while there may have been some discussion between Barrie’s representatives and the Avalanche in February, I don’t put much merit in the long term implications just yet. These, however, are just the tip of the iceberg.
There has only been three defensemen to play for the Colorado Avalanche who have put up more points in a single season than Barrie did in the 2014-2015 season: Rob Blake, Ray Bourque, and Sandis Ozolinsh. Heck, there were only 12 defenders in the whole NHL this past season who cracked 50 points at all, Barrie was just outside with 49 points. The point here is that defensemen who can put up 50 points on an annual basis don’t just grow on trees. The Avalanche know this; anybody who covers the NHL in any capacity knows this. If you have a guy like this on your team, you do everything that you can to keep him and, if for some reason you can’t, you make sure you get somebody similar in return.
The Avalanche are high on many of their defensive prospects, especially Chris Bigras and Nikita Zadorov, but you can’t just assume that a player is going to be capable of putting up these kinds of points until they actually do it. Barrie has shown that he can put up these point totals while playing a rather inconsistent all-around game. He is just coming into the prime of his career, so imagine what happens when his game does become more consistent. Now imagine you just took that player and gave him away to another team. Not a pretty picture and it’s one the Avalanche are eager to avoid.
Barrie is Restricted
This is perhaps the most important part of this whole debate. The discussion around Barrie is being built up as if the Avalanche have no choice but to move Barrie, which is simply factually inaccurate. Barrie is a restricted free agent, which means that the Avalanche hold all the cards. Once the Avalanche give him a qualifying offer, they hold all the power in terms of where he will play next season. Barrie can test the market and sign an offer sheet, if he chooses, but the Avalanche would likely match any offer sheet to come his way. There is also arbitration, which guarantees that he would be in an Avalanche sweater next season.
Literally the only way that Tyson Barrie would not be in an Avalanche sweater next season would be through trade; and since this isn’t a trade that the Avalanche have to make before losing him for nothing, teams would have to really make it worth their while. None of this first round pick and maybe a couple of prospects, talk. If a team wants to get Barrie away from the Avalanche, then they need to be able to solve the issue for the Avalanche that would be replacing Barrie’s production. Which then leads to the final point.
Losing Another Core Piece
Let’s role-play here for a second. You’re Joe Sakic or Patrick Roy. Over the past two seasons you have lost two pieces of your core in Paul Stastny (via free agency) and Ryan O’Reilly (via trade). Each time you have last one of these core pieces it has taken a while for the team to adjust to the hole they left on the ice and, ultimately, it kept you out of the playoffs. Why on earth would you do this for a third season in a row when you have absolutely no reason to do it? I can think of no faster way to usher yourself out the door than to do nothing but talk about how you want to keep your core together while systematically dropping one major piece of your team every offseason.
The Avalanche would essentially be cutting off their nose to spite their face if they move Barrie, even if the return is pretty good. Might there be a challenge to get Barrie signed to a deal that works out for both parties, absolutely. That being said, it doesn’t mean that the Avalanche have to move him. Say what you want about the inconsistency of his play, and believe me I have, his overall value to the team is too great to just move him. He’s a restricted free agent, which gives the Avalanche so many different opportunities to keep him around that trading him this offseason should be the last thing on anybody’s mind. When you sift through everything and look at it rationally, the Avalanche simply have no reason to trade Tyson Barrie.