The Avalanche look likely to trade Tyson Barrie, but should they?

Apr 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) looks to pass the puck in the second period against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

At the end of the season, Colorado Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic did not rule out the possibility of shaking up his core via trade. In the months that have followed, speculation has run rampant over which player(s) might be moved. Matt Duchene’s name has been thrown around, as has Semyon Varlamov’s. Lately, the name rolling off the tongues of hockey pundits most frequently is that of defenseman Tyson Barrie; and the chatter is only growing louder.

“There’s no question in my mind, I think Tyson Barrie is going to be traded,” said hockey insider Bob McKenzie during an appearance on TSN 1260 in Edmonton on Friday.

McKenzie is always quick with an inside scoop or a hot take, and he is right a lot of the time. This one in particular, could make a lot of sense.

A restricted free agent, Barrie is arbitration eligible. In the minds of Avalanche brass, that is a status that is not taken lightly. Traditionally, they do not like players taking them to arbitration, and when they do (regardless if they settle beforehand or not), it usually marks the beginning of the end of their time in Colorado – just ask Ryan O’Reilly, Chris Drury and Alex Tanguay (his first stint).

“Tyson Barrie has got a very strong arbitration case,” continued McKenzie. “I think he’s going to be looking for a sum of money that Colorado doesn’t feel comfortable in giving him. Therefore, I think they’re looking for somebody who – looking for a different type of defenseman maybe, or one that’s not going to cost them as much money.”

Offensively, there’s no question Barrie can make a strong argument. Defensively, not so much. Where his award would sit likely with the bias of the arbitrator and how much he values things like plus/minus, possession numbers and turnovers when compared to offensive production.

The Avalanche likely view Barrie’s value at around $5 million per season, perhaps a shade less. His representatives are likely looking for more. The Avalanche might be right to move him if the price is too steep, especially if he is looking to surpass the Duchene line ($6 million).

Financials aside, there are other reasons to consider moving Barrie.

First, he could probably fetch a handsome return. There are plenty of teams in the NHL that would love a puck-moving defenseman, especially one that’s a right-handed shot. Some might be able to send a solid, more traditional defenseman back in return (hello Columbus), while others could give top-end offensive talent (i.e. Edmonton).

Second, the problems in the Avalanche’s play last season mainly stemmed from their poor defensive zone coverage and puck management. Barrie is a defensive liability and, though he creates a lot of offensive chances for his team, he is also turnover-prone. A defensive group needs to learn how to play in their own end before worrying about offense.

That being said, if you look at the Avs’ Stanley Cup teams in 1996 and 2001, both had a puck mover on the backend to serve as a sort of offensive catalyst. On the former team, it was Sandis Ozolinsh. On the latter, it was Ray Bourque (despite his legendary all-around talent, that was the role he was used in for the Avs). Though he doesn’t have the size, Barrie plays a game very similar to Ozolinsh; making him the kind of player it may behoove the Avalanche to keep around.

At the right price.

That, my friends, is the key to this entire situation. Ideally, I’m sure the Avalanche would love to keep Tyson Barrie. The deal simply has to make financial sense. If his price is too high, and it would handcuff the team going forward, they would be right to move on.

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