The March 21 NHL Trade Deadline is drawing near and hockey insiders have revved up possible trade scenarios. The Athletic proposed a potential deal for the Edmonton Oilers that saw a deal involving Tyson Barrie and Kyle Turris for the New Jersey Devils’ P.K. Subban (at 50% of money retrained) (from “Who Says No? Evaluating 25 Oilers Trades, From Goalie Upgrades to Bold Swaps and the Ultimate Blockbuster,” The Athletic, 9/10/22).
The Hockey Writers’ Jim Parsons recently wrote an article about realistic trade options for Barrie, and briefly touched on swapping the Oilers’ defender for Subban. Here’s an in-depth look at why this move makes sense for both teams.
Bouchard’s Power-Play Work Makes Barrie Expendable
The signing of Barrie this past off-season seemed like the Plan B response to losing Adam Larsson to the Seattle Kraken. While many were opposed to the signing, I felt at the time it was a positive move (although the term was two seasons too long). He was coming off a 48-point season where he led all NHL defensemen in points.
Many felt that Evan Bouchard should’ve automatically been gifted first unit power-play duties to replace Barrie, however, it wouldn’t have been a wise decision to put that type of pressure on a player who, at the time, only had 21 games under his belt. Now that we’ve seen that the 22-year-old Bouchard is fully capable of producing points and playing fetch with Connor McDavid and company on the first unit power play, though, this makes Barrie expendable.
Barrie and Bouchard are of the same ilk. They’re offensive-minded defensemen, who at times have lapses in the actual defending part of the job description. However, the younger Bouchard has much more upside to tighten up the defensive side of his game. Still, having both in the line up with the same skill set would not bode well in a playoff battle.
Comparing Barrie and Subban
The fact that Barrie’s name is being suggested in trade proposals by hockey insiders suggests Bouchard is ready for full-time minutes on the power play. The Athletic’s Ryan Nugent-Bowman and Allan Mitchell were in favour of the trade proposal for Barrie and Subban from the Oilers’ perspective. Writer Shayna Goldman, who covers the Devils, pondered the idea, and ultimately concluded that the deal could work from New Jersey’s perspective. As Subban’s deal is finished by the end of the season and won’t likely return, the team will need to replace him with another defender.
The right-shot Subban is no longer the offensive force he once was, with his career-high 60 points with the Montreal Canadiens set way back in 2014-2015. Yet, he’s still a serviceable NHL defenseman. This season he has 18 points in 56 games and currently plays third pairing on the right-side, behind Dougie Hamilton and Damon Severson. According to Natural Stat Trick, he averages 19:03 in ice time with a 50.5% Corsi rating.
Barrie has comparable numbers. He has 25 points in 50 games (while playing on the Oilers’ number one power-play unit). He averages 19:03 time on ice and has a 50.3% Corsi rating. However, Subban is more physical, which is something the Oilers lack on the back end, with 53 hits in comparison to Barrie’s 19. Both players have a minus -6 rating on the season.
If the Oilers sneak into the playoffs, Subban’s experience could also be an asset over Barrie. He’s played in 96 playoff games, in comparison to Barrie’s 30. The Devils’ defender also brings a level of feistiness on the back end. He has a history of getting under other players’ skin and he’s dropped the gloves twice this season.
Why Does New Jersey Do This Deal?
Hockey insider Pierre LeBrun shared the news that Devils’ general manager Tom Fitzgerald had a chat with Subban and admitted that the team will not re-sign him for next season. With his $9 million AAV coming off the books, the Devils will have over $24 million in cap space for next season.
Barrie is signed until 2023-2024 and his $4.5 million AAV would be half the cost of Subban’s cap hit, and both players currently play equivalent minutes. Although the defender isn’t overly physical, he is effective at moving the puck and can help on the man advantage. Hamilton runs the Devils’ first power-play unit, but Barrie would be able to step in onto the second unit and fill in if Hamilton is out of the lineup.
Why Does Edmonton Do This Deal?
As previously mentioned, Barrie’s departure opens the door to give full time minutes to Bouchard on the first unit power play. Also, the Oilers currently have just under $8 million in cap space with 15 players signed. They have to re-sign Jesse Puljujarvi, Kailer Yamamoto, and a new goaltender. If they traded for Subban (with money retained), they have an NHL veteran on the blue line, who would be able to move up and down the line up with Bouchard and Cody Ceci on the right-side for the rest of the season. If Subban does well, the Oilers can look to re-sign him. If not, his salary is off the books, and most importantly, they lose Barrie’s $4.5 million in cap space for next season.
With the departure of Larsson to the Kraken this season, the Oilers are severely missing a veteran physical presence on their D-corps. Markus Niemelainen, who recently signed a two-year contract extension, looks to be that presence in the future, but he’s still very raw. They can use the extra cap space to find a physical veteran defenseman that gives them a new dimension, can shut down opposing forwards on the cycle and make life a little harder in the Oilers’ zone.
Both Barrie and Subban are right-shot defenders, with the same plus/minus rating and average equivalent minutes on ice. Would you make the swap? Write in the comments below.
He’s the first ever Ultimate MVP fan of the NHL as declared by Upperdeck – He’s been featured on CBC Radio providing hockey analysis for the Edmonton Oilers – He’s a freelance writer and Edmonton Oilers’ Sportswriter for the Hockey Writers.