Oh, how times have changed.
For the better part of the last decade, the biggest hole on the Oilers’ roster was the right side of the blueline. The team had a wealth of young forwards, a crowded left side known as The Leftorium, but the question was always how they would go out and find that much-coveted puck-moving, right-handed defender.
Here we are now and the Oilers have more righty defenders than spots in the lineup. They internally developed Ethan Bear and Evan Bouchard and, in the off-season, they added puck-mover Tyson Barrie to join Adam Larsson as the blueline’s right-handed veterans.
Barrie seems to have found a home on the team’s top pairing alongside Darnell Nurse and Dave Tippett likes using Larsson on a shutdown pair with either William Lagesson or Kris Russell. Bear, who was injured for part of the season, has found himself on the third pairing while Bouchard is now on the Taxi Squad.
Naturally, with this surplus, fans in Edmonton have started to wonder if the right play for Ken Holland is to move one of these defenders in order to fill a position of need, such as a top-six winger to play on Connor McDavid’s left. Again, it’s amazing how times have changed.
That brings us to this week’s What Would You Do Wednesday SUNDAY EDITION question. How should Holland handle his surplus of talent on the blueline? Has the addition of Tyson Barrie made either Bear or Bouchard expandable? Is Barrie worth a long-term contract extension? What about Larsson? Should he be re-signed?
Here’s how Edmonton’s depth stacks up on the right side of the blueline…
- Adam Larsson: $4,166,666 cap hit, UFA in 2021
- Tyson Barrie: $3,750,000 cap hit, UFA in 2021
- Ethan Bear: $2,000,000 cap hit, RFA in 2022
- Evan Bouchard: $863,333 cap hit, RFA in 2023
- Filip Berglund: Entry-level deal, currently in SHL
- Phil Kemp: Entry-level deal, currently in Allsvenskan
Edmonton has two young, NHL-calibre defenders in Bear and Bouchard on the right side on cheap contracts while the two veterans, Barrie and Larsson, are set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
Given the way Barrie has produced this season (24 points in 30 games played), he’s going to command a hefty raise from his current one-year, show-me deal. Though the salary cap being flat will inevitably drive the price of contracts down this summer, NHL teams will pay a premium for defenders who produce offensively.
With that in mind, it’s difficult to see Larsson getting a raise on his $4,166,666 annual salary from the post-entry-level deal he signed with the New Jersey Devils back in 2015. Larsson scored 24 points in 64 games in 2014-15 before signing that deal, which still stands as his career-high.
These are among the difficult decisions Holland has to make this off-season.
Barrie has found some excellent chemistry with Nurse but he might be too expensive to keep around. Tippett likes Larsson as the team’s primary shutdown defender but he’s also nearing 30 years of age and there are concerns about his long-term durability. Beyond those two, Holland also has to make a decision on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and both Kailer Yamamoto and Jujhar Khaira are set to become restricted free agents.
It’ll be a busy summer.
What say, you Nation? Should re-signing Barrie be a priority? What about Larsson? If the team decides to lock Barrie up long-term, would that open up the possibility of moving either Bear or Bouchard to fill a need elsewhere on the roster? Given their age and talent, both would carry major value on the trade market, but they’re also very valuable to the Oilers for that exact reason.
Remember, having Justin Schultz once made Jeff Petry expendable and we all know how that turned out.
Let us know what you think!