Don’t look now, but Edmonton Oilers’ Tyson Barrie is the leading point getter for defenseman in the NHL. With 48 points after 55 games played, he’s got one more game on Saturday to add to his lead, but he’ll finish ahead of the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox who is finished his season, along with names like John Carlson, Victor Hedman and Kris Letang.
Many will argue that Barrie leading the league in points by a defenseman is a direct result of Connor McDavid having arguably the best season in decades. They’ll give him no credit for the things he’s good at, choosing instead to hard on the fact that he’s more one-dimensional than some of these other defenseman. Some will find reasons to say the other blueliners in this category had reasons, beyond just themselves to be up there as well, which is fair. Hockey is not a one-man sport, as much as McDavid has a tendency to make it seem that way.
Either way, it appears finishing where he did will price Barrie out of the Oilers plans for next season.
This Shouldn’t Come as a Shock
Barrie came to Edmonton will one goal in mind: to produce a ton of points on the league’s top power play and turn that production into a better contract next season. He signed for a team-friendly $3.75 million on a one-year deal and he’s been worth every penny. That said, he won’t do it again.
Now that he’s finished at the top of the standings, some team will offer Barrie the kind of money and term the Oilers can’t justify. He’s looking at least $5 million per season on the open market and probably more. Whether you think he’s worth it or not isn’t really the question here. The reality is, there’s a price point the Oilers can’t go beyond and that was something all parties knew coming into his signing with the team this past offseason.
General manager Ken Holland knew what this was. Barrie knew what this was. A number of Oilers fans seem to be forgetting what this was.
Oilers Don’t Actually Need Barrie
I’ve long argued for the Oilers to bring back Barrie under the right circumstances. I’m not a fan of people who discount everything he does simply because it serves their narrative that his advance stats speak more loudly than what we’re all watching on the ice. Sure, Barrie isn’t perfect, but he’s extremely good at what the Oilers wanted him for.
Still, I’ve also always contended that Barrie is a luxury and not necessarily a need.
If Oscar Klefbom is healthy, he can fill the role Barrie does on the power play. In all other situations, Evan Bouchard will and should get a look. Keeping Barrie on a good contract is one thing. Keeping him on an overpaid deal, and at the expense of Bouchard’s development is another.
If Barrie is looking for a lot more money — and this season’s totals would indicate he’s well within his rights to do so — the Oilers can’t afford to overspend when they have other options available.
Oilers Should Still Talk to Barrie About an Extension
Some fans will continue to point at Barrie’s underlying numbers and argue that he’s not worth keeping around. That simply isn’t true if there’s a good enough bargain to be had. Regardless of what the fancy stats says, there’s a place for Barrie on this Oilers team if he’s willing to take a discount to stay in an ideal situation. It can’t hurt the Oilers and Barrie to talk it out before going their separate ways.
If Barrie really likes the combination of factors that led him to getting all those points, plus the idea that he’s joining a franchise on the upswing, he might be inclined to tell Holland he’s willing to take less than he’ll be offered on the open market. At the same time, Holland should walk Barrie through his vision for this team’s blue line and explain where he sees Barrie fitting. If Barrie doesn’t hang up the phone, make a pitch to Barrie’s camp at a number the GM is more than comfortable with.
If it doesn’t pan out, then it doesn’t pan out. Both sides can move on knowing they got what they needed out of Barrie’s one season. The Oilers made it to the playoffs and their power play continued to roll with their top defenseman going down to start the season. At the same time, Barrie put up enough points that a team will overpay him. Win/win.
Jim Parsons is a freelance writer who covers the Edmonton Oilers and news and rumors posts here at The Hockey Writers.
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