The Leafs Must Go After Tyson Barrie

Last week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that the Colorado Avalanche are taking calls on star defenceman, Tyson Barrie.

Barrie, 24, will be a restricted free agent this summer when his two year contract expires. He had a $2.6 million cap hit.

After yet another disappointing season in Colorado, the two sides are reportedly not even close to signing a new contract. Barrie is coming off of his third consecutive season in the top 15 for points per game among NHL defencemen.

While Barrie is predominantly an offensive defenceman, much like Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner, he has the ability to be a game-changer in that aspect. Barrie logged 23:11 per game last season, including 3:07 on the power play.

Tyson Barrie’s Scouting Report

Barrie is considered a smaller defenceman in today’s NHL, standing at 5’10, 190 pounds. But, he makes up for his size with smooth skating and tremendous vision of the ice. While his game revolves around his offensive abilities, Barrie has quickly become reliable on the back end as well. He is an agile skater who uses his stick and body positioning to take away shooting and passing lanes. He has decent lower body strength, meaning he can out-muscle opponents in puck battles.

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Where his game thrives is in the transition and offensive aspects. Barrie sees the ice well and knows where his teammates will be in order to make a responsible first pass on the breakout. He can also use his skating to drive the puck through the neutral zone himself. Once his team is in the offensive zone, Barrie is relied upon to set up plays with poise and maturity. While he doesn’t have the hardest shot, he chooses smart shots. Barrie is able to find lanes through traffic in order to generate deflections and rebounds.

On the special teams, Barrie is a power play enthusiast. He quarterbacks his team in gaining the zone as well as maintaining possession and setting up a play. He can fire tape-to-tape passes and get pucks to the dangerous areas in order to create goals.

Why Do the Leafs Need Tyson Barrie?

So why should the Leafs pursue yet another young offensive defenceman when they obviously need more defensively responsible defenders? After winning the first overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Leafs rebuild is ahead of shedule after just one year. In Barrie, Toronto would finally have a legitimate first pairing defenceman. And at just 24 years of age, he could still adapt to Babcock’s style while growing with the core of the team.

Without a doubt, his defensive game is much better than he gets credit for. Playing in Colorado, which had the worst even strength Corsi For Percentage in the league this year at just 44.2%, will certainly do that to a guy. However, Toronto may be able to use that in their favour to lower the asking price for Barrie.

When you look at the successful teams in the NHL today, like Chicago, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Anaheim, you notice a constant. Each team has superb defending through their top six. Not only that, but they all have defencemen who can make a difference offensively as well. In today’s game, two-way, mobile defencemen have become a necessity.

Imagine a matured top pairing featuring Rielly and Barrie. The two would be able to breakout and transition the game into the offensive zone with ease. They are both excellent skaters as well, leaving little risk defensively. Within a few years, Toronto could potentially have one of the best pairings in the league.

What Would the Price Be?

The Avalanche are in a tough position with Barrie. Should the gap between the two remain, Barrie could easily hold out and even miss time in the 2016-17 season. After five years of NHL experience and two contracts, Barrie is in line for a major pay raise. When comparing Barrie to other top defencemen in the NHL, he will likely earn between $5.5-6 million per year.

So what would Toronto be asked to give up in return for Barrie? Colorado would likely want an NHL defenceman, a solid prospect and a mid-round draft pick.

A few potential trades could be:

  • Jake Gardiner, Kasperi Kapanen, and a 2017 third round pick.
  • Nazem Kadri, Scott Harrington, and a 2017 second round pick.

Both of those deals would be worth it for the future of hockey in Toronto. Gardiner could be replaced by Connor Carrick as soon as next year, while Kadri is running out of space with William Nylander and now Auston Matthews likely joining the team as well. While it is definitely a fairly steep price to pay, it is one that Shanahan and the Leafs must consider to further vault their rebuild ahead of schedule.

Defencemen of Barrie’s calibre rarely become available, especially at such a young age, which is why now is the time for Toronto to jump on the opportunity. They would acquire a difference maker who can make their team better immediately, without the stress of wondering whether or not he will turn out, as they must do with their drafted prospects.