The Edmonton Oilers are in a difficult spot when it comes to their salary cap this year and beyond. That means, despite some contracts ending after this season, the team will have to trade some players that make too much and just don’t contribute as much as they should.
This season, players like Tyson Barrie, Mikko Koskinen, Zack Kassian, and a few less notable names have been brought up. But with the emergence of Evan Bouchard to play on the first defence pairing and on the power play, it allows the Oilers to make an easy decision to trade Barrie.
In just the first year of his three-year, $13.5 million deal, the Oilers don’t require the services of Barrie anymore, especially not with how much he makes to essentially be a third-pairing defenceman with offensive abilities. He’s not the same player he was last season in leading all defencemen in points, while the power play has also fallen flat.
A deal may not be struck mid-season, but expect something to get done before the beginning of next season, so the Oilers can have the cap space to fill their lineup effectively and put themselves in a position to be a more sound team defensively. Here are some teams that may require the services Barrie brings and could be a trade partner for the Oilers by the 2022-23 season.
The first of the three possible destinations is the Winnipeg Jets. They are still feeling the effects of the sudden departure of Dustin Byfuglien years ago and lack a true power-play specialist on the back end. That’s where the Oilers and Barrie come in. The Jets have played three different defencemen on the power play, which indicates there’s no No. 1 guy.
Neal Pionk, Nate Schmidt, and Josh Morrissey have all spent significant time on the power play. Pionk has played 116 minutes, been on the ice for 12 power-play goals for and two against while scoring one goal and assisting on six.
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Schmidt has never recorded more than one goal and 11 power-play points in one season with 36 points being his career high. He has spent 97 minutes on the power play, and was a part of 11 of the 13 goals he’s been on the ice for. There hasn’t been a shorthanded goal against while he has been on the ice, and he has his career high in power-play goals and points this season.
Morrissey’s career high in power-play points is just 12, while he has already topped his career high in power-play goals with four this season. He has played just 76 minutes on the man advantage and been on the ice for 10 goals for and one against.
All three of the Jets’ options have helped them into 14th place in the NHL on power-play percentage with 20.7, but cycling through can mess with chemistry and success they could have. Barrie has more power-play goals than Pionk and Schmidt, while recording more points than Pionk and Morrissey. Barrie has topped 20 power-play points in a season on four occasions, once reaching 30. He has been known to score, but is also very good at setting up his teammates. A $4.5 million cap hit will have to be worked in somehow, but the Jets would finally have their answer to a set player to man the point.
The Carolina Hurricanes are a team that likes to take advantage of players that could be seen as outcasts and fit them into their system and become loved by the fans. We saw them acquire Dougie Hamilton while he was on a cheaper deal and see him break out to be a star defenceman. Then just this season they signed Tony DeAngelo to a one-year, $1 million deal.
Despite DeAngelo being a restricted free agent (RFA) after this season, his season has warranted a big pay raise. The Hurricanes opted to let Hamilton walk in free agency due to the sizeable pay increase he was wanting and going to get somewhere. The question is if the Hurricanes are going to do that once again if DeAngelo is asking for too much.
By the offensive numbers DeAngelo has put up this season with Carolina, I’m betting he will be wanting more money than a player like Barrie who can provide the same results on the power play. (from ‘Tony DeAngelo thriving in quiet life with Hurricanes after dramatic Rangers exit’, New York Post, Jan. 20, 2022) Barrie wouldn’t be counted on to play top minutes either, as Brett Pesce has the top pairing locked down. Instead, Barrie could spend a lot of time with Jaccob Slavin, a very reliable defenceman, to cover him.
The Hurricanes only have three defencemen signed after this season with DeAngelo and Ethan Bear as RFAs and Ian Cole and Brendan Smith as unrestricted free agents (UFA). With a number of forwards’ contracts also up after this season and the uncertainty around DeAngelo, I think the Hurricanes would do well with acquiring Barrie in the offseason. It wouldn’t make much sense at all to bring him in before that unless there’s a significant injury.
Another team that makes sense is the Pittsburgh Penguins, but only if Kris Letang tests free agency. Contract negotiations stopped around training camp between the Penguins and Letang, so it couldn’t have gone very well or he would have been signed. His next contract will be a 35-plus contract, so things might get tricky between the two sides.
Logically, the Penguins won’t want to sign someone of that age to a lengthy contract, but want to remain competitive since Sidney Crosby is still around and Evgeni Malkin has made it clear he doesn’t care much about the money anymore. To stay competitive, the Penguins will want to keep their franchise defenceman. But one side or the other will have to budge in negotiations if a deal is going to be done because another team will surely be willing to give Letang what he wants, even if it means crippling themselves a bit in a few years.
We shall see how things play out between Letang and the Penguins, but they should also be thinking about younger and cheaper replacements for him. John Klingberg should be an option, but that’s only if he doesn’t sign with a new team before free agency opens. What makes Barrie a great candidate is he would pick up the power-play duties as well as only be under contract for two more seasons at a much cheaper price. In a few seasons, if the Penguins are then looking to head towards a rebuild with their stars aging, they can easily cut ties with Barrie then and transition that way.
A move right away may be difficult, but trading Barrie before the start of the 2022-23 season should be at the top of Ken Holland’s list for him to be able to sign and acquire the right pieces for the Oilers.