As the 2022 offseason pushes on, the Edmonton Oilers are, unsurprisingly, running low on cap space, and may look to offload the Tyson Barrie contract. With RFA’s Kailer Yamamoto and Ryan McLeod left to re-sign, and less than $2 million in cap space to do so, the Oilers will have to make a trade somewhere to clear up cap space. That $2 million figure is assuming both Oscar Klefbom and Mike Smith start the season on LTIR, as well.
There have been a few rumours swirling around about who might be on the move to clear up some cap space. Warren Foegele is one. He was acquired last offseason in a trade for Ethan Bear, but his $2.75 million cap hit won’t quite clear enough space to sign both Yamamoto and McLeod.
So, next on the list, and the subject of this article, is defender Tyson Barrie. The Oilers signed him to a 3-year, $4.5 million AAV contract last offseason. If they could move that, they should be able to fill out the roster while retaining Yamamoto and McLeod. McLeod is fairly easy to judge as he should fall somewhere between $1 and $1.5 million AAV.
Yamamoto might be a bit harder to judge with how up and down his performance has been but early indications and other comparables for him would place him around $3 million, depending on the length of the contract.
Because Jesse Puljujarvi has just signed for that $3 million figure, Yamamoto is likely to have a slightly higher AAV.
But the key question here is should the Oilers trade Barrie? Or should they keep him?
The Case for Trading Tyson Barrie
Right now, the Oilers are preparing to pay $4.5 million to a third-pairing defender. Now, that third pairing defender happens to be an elite passer and powerplay quarterback. But for the 90-plus percent of the game that is not powerplay, that is a lot of money to pay for someone playing that low in the lineup.
Is the $4.5 million cap hit worth the player anchoring the top powerplay unit?
Personally, I say not in this situation. The Oilers have Evan Bouchard waiting patiently for an opportunity to get more powerplay time. And they already have two elite playmakers on that top powerplay unit in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. In this case, Barrie becomes expendable as the team has enough talent to work around other players.
Next, let’s take a look at where he will play at even strength. The third pairing for the Oilers this upcoming season is likely to have a rookie defender getting significant time. Barrie is notoriously mediocre defensively, and I ask the question of whether or not he will be the best defensive partner for a rookie who may need some extra defensive coverage.
The Case Against Trading Tyson Barrie
With Barrie quarterbacking the top unit, the Oilers have been treated to one of the most potent powerplays in the league, finishing third in the 2021-22 season and first in 2020-21. Barrie has recorded 44 powerplay points on 109 Oilers powerplay goals over those two seasons. This also ranks sixth in the league among defenders over that time period.
He has shown to be a significant part of the Oilers’ powerplay success and I’m not sure the team would want to interrupt that chemistry at this point.
Additionally, even though he is an offensive defender and has major defensive lapses, he still seems to be a solid veteran presence. He also does have respectable possession metrics at even strength, though one does have to factor in the quality of competition and offensive zone start percentage. He usually hovers in the low 50% range in Corsi percentage, indicating the team generally gets more shots for than gives up when he is on the ice.
Over his career, Barrie averages over 50 points per season. That is insane for a defender and not something easily parted with. For a team that has, at times, struggled to get offensive contributions from the defence, losing Barrie’s point production would hurt.
Should the Edmonton Oilers Offload the Tyson Barrie Contract?
In my opinion, the Oilers should be looking to move Barrie in order to free up cap space. His cap hit of $4.5 million is way too much for the role he plays on the team. It could be much better spent re-signing Yamamoto and McLeod.
With the remaining couple million after re-signing everyone, I’m fairly certain the Oilers could find a more suitable third-pairing defender in the free agent market, or even utilize their prospects a bit more with players like Philip Broberg and Markus Niemelainen earning chances to make the NHL roster soon.
As for the powerplay, as mentioned before, Bouchard deserves a shot. He was fifth on the Oilers in scoring last season with 43 points, 35 of which were even strength.
He does not possess the passing ability of Barrie but he does have an incredibly powerful shot that he is amazing at getting through traffic. With two or three other players more than capable of handling the playmaking on that top powerplay unit, the team and the players can make it work.
The key for Ken Holland in making this trade is to make sure he views it as an actual hockey trade. He cannot let it be viewed that this is entirely a cap dump as the Oilers are running out of second and third-round draft picks for him to waste.
Barrie is a valuable asset in his own right and there should be teams lining up to get access to his powerplay and playmaking skills. The Edmonton Oilers should be receiving assets in this trade, ideally, a couple of draft picks to replenish that stock.
That is the case for and against offloading the Tyson Barrie contract. What do you think? Should the Edmonton Oilers keep him or trade him? Drop a comment down below with your answer!
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