What if the Pittsburgh Penguins do not sign Kris Letang? The UFA market is weak. The Penguins don’t have a prospect ready to step into a more prominent role on the right side. So, the NHL trade block would seem to be the only source of replenishment.
This week the chatter exploded in Edmonton. Everyone but the big two was on the NHL trade block for a moment. However, one name that sticks out because Edmonton will have to move salary and has a young defenseman ready for more responsibility is right-side defenseman Tyson Barrie.
Elliotte Friedman first put Barrie’s name on the NHL trade market this week on the Jeff Marek show when he and Marek discussed Barrie becoming available. Marek immediately jumped to the Montreal Canadiens because their top RHD, Jeff Petry, is heavily rumored to be on the trade block (and widely speculated to be a potential replacement should Letang leave).
“I do think the Oilers are going to have to move cap space,” said Friedman on the show. “I think one of the guys we’re going to be watching is going to be Tyson Barrie. It’s been a real merry-go-round since Colorado.”
So, Marek felt Barrie would be a stop-gap in Montreal if they deal Petry. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Penguins should take the shorter route, go straight to Barrie, and use the monetary savings (and probably less expensive acquisition costs) to their advantage.
Also, count this keyboard as one who believes Barrie in a good situation could be better than Petry.
Barrie would fit the Penguins’ style very well, and his salary would offer healthy savings over other options, including nearly $3 million less than Letang’s most recent AAV.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old defenseman was a top-two pairing guy with the Colorado Avalanche for five-plus seasons before he was traded to the chaotic Toronto Maple Leafs three seasons ago. A down year with Toronto and two uneven seasons with the Edmonton Oilers puts Barrie on the block.
Tyson Barrie knows how to put up points and can play big minutes. Until this season, Barrie did not average below 21 minutes since his first full NHL season in 2013-14. However, this year, he played just 18 minutes per game.
Evan Bouchard is ready to supplant Barrie on the Edmonton blue line, which gives GM Ken Holland a trade chip, and Penguins GM Ron Hextall could do far worse than having Barrie lined up in case Letang seeks greener pastures.
Last season Barrie was among the leaders in defensemen scoring with 48 points (8-40-48) in the 56-game season. This season, with reduced minutes, Barrie fell to 41 points in 73 games.
He still runs a mean power play (37 PP assists over the last two seasons), can skate, distribute the puck and finish his chances. Without Letang, the Penguins will desperately need a second defenseman who can put the puck in the net. As we noted previously, after Letang and Mike Matheson, the Penguins’ defensemen combined for just 11 goals.
At 31, Barrie’s best days are not behind him, and he will have two more years left on his contract. Barrie would be a nice option and probably mesh well with Brian Dumoulin.
Editor’s Note: The original draft was quickly corrected to note Barrie has two years remaining on his contract.
Barrie’s defensive zone coverage is a bit looser than Letang’s, but Barrie also makes significantly fewer turnovers. In four of the last five seasons, Barrie has averaged only 41 turnovers. 2020-21 was an outlier with 62 giveaways.
In those same four seasons, Letang averaged 81 turnovers.
The NHL trade prices are still being set, but at the 2022 NHL trade deadline, Nick Leddy was dealt from the Detroit Red Wings to St. Louis Blues for a depth defenseman, fourth-line forward Oskar Sundqvist, and a second-round pick.
Barrie probably costs a bit more than Leddy, but a few other defensemen, including 37-year-old Mark Giordano, were dealt and almost all included a second-round pick. (Vancouver dealt Travis Hamonic to Ottawa for only a third-rounder. Giordano and Colin Blackwell fetched two second-rounders and a third).
So, the going rate for Barrie probably includes a second-round pick, and at least one more piece, probably something of value such as a legit prospect or a player Ken Holland feels his team needs.
The cost will be about the same for Jeff Petry, but Barrie has more offensive upside and goal-scoring ability. Keep your eyes on Tyson Barrie as the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Kris Letang negotiations unfold.