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Game #74 and #75 – Hawks vs. Avalanche Spotlight: Tyson Barrie Is Better Than You Think, And Is About To Be Replaced

Tyson Barrie is a name we’ve tossed around the FFUD lab for years. It didn’t hurt, or help him, that the Avs seemingly could never warm up to him. He was definitely on the trade-block a few years ago, primarily because he wouldn’t commit axe-murder on the ice like Patrick Roy required of his defensemen. A right-handed, puck-moving d-man is something the Hawks have been crying out for for years, and kind of necessitated the drafting of both Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell. It’s no coincidence that the Avs extended Barrie the same offseason they told Roy to do one, realizing what they had and what was ruining it. Always best to choose a talented d-man over a loudmouth dope, at least in our minds.

Barrie has paid the Avs back and then some. His 109 points from the back end the past two years ranks him sixth among all defensemen, ahead of names like Roman Josi, Mark Giordano, and John Klingberg. The only ones ahead of him are Brent Burns, John Carlson, Morgan Rielly, Victor Hedman, and Keith Yandle, He walks among the best.

Barrie has of late also been metrically affluent, as he’s carrying the play in terms of expected goals and Corsi. And his rates are far above the team-rates. Yes, Barrie has spent most of his time behind the Troika Of The Apocalypse in Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. But someone has to get them the puck, and their metrics take a heavy drop when Barrie isn’t back there (also dragging around Ian Cole, baybay!). All three of those forwards see their Corsi, scoring chance, and high-danger chance rates drop 4-7 points when Barrie isn’t out there with him. He’s an engine.

Which puts the Avs in something of a curious spot.

You may not know, but there’s something pretty sparkly about to hit Denver. Its name is Cale Makar. He’s currently lighting up Hockey East for UMass, the #3 team in the nation, with 46 points in 36 games as a d-man. Hockey East being just about the realest-ass conference there is, and Makar merely being a sophomore, you can pretty much bank on him being the realness. And like Barrie, he’s right-handed. Makar may even join the Avs for the playoffs, if they make it and he doesn’t take UMass all the way to the Frozen Four.

Ideally, next season Barrie would be used to shelter Makar, leaving the latter to simply fistfuck second and third lines from a second pairing. And perhaps that is the plan. Where that gets rough is that Barrie will also be in the last year of his deal. Should he put up another 50-60 points, and there’s no reason he won’t other than health, he’ll be hitting unrestricted free agency at a still springy 29. Perhaps good for the Avs is that if you look ahead, the summer of 2020 could be loaded when it comes to free agent defensemen. At the moment, Alex Pietrangelo, Justin Schultz, Barrie, Torey Krug, Jared Spurgeon, and Justin Faulk are currently slated to be on the market then. Obviously, not all will get there. But Barrie can easily ask for $7M-$8M with another like the last two have been.

So if you’re Joe Sakic, do you keep Barrie around to be the Makar-Whisperer, and then quite possibly lose him for nothing? Do you try and cash in this summer and hope Makar is ready for it all next year (which he might be)? Do you extend Barrie at 29? The Avs can probably afford to so thanks to MacKinnon’s simply laughably team-friendly deal. And that’s with Rantanen pulling in whatever he gets this summer as an RFA.

Should the Avs go that route, they could look awfully scary next year with Barrie and Makar driving the bus, that top line, and hopefully a step forward from literally any of their other kids, as well as the addition of Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko, thanks to the Senators paint-huffing style of management. If the Jets and Predators want to know where their likely challenger is coming from in the Central, it probably should look to the mountains.

 

Game #74 and #75 Preview Suite

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