With very little available cap space, but numerous pending UFAs and RFAs, Ken Holland is poised to have a busy off-season.
The current roster won’t look the same in September, and it’s inevitable that Holland will shed salary in some way or manner.
One of the most effective ways to accomplish this is by moving Tyson Barrie’s and Zack Kassian’s contracts.
Both Barrie and Kassian have two years left on their current deals. Barrie currently sits at a cap hit of $4.5M, while Kassian is at a cap hit of $3.2M.
In this piece, I’ll outline why it’s best for Edmonton to move on from Barrie and Kassian, and suggest some potential trade scenarios involving the two players.
*All microstats via Corey Sznajder / AllThreeZones, all contract info via PuckPedia, all other stats via EvolvingHockey unless stated otherwise
Why trading Barrie should be considered
In the shortened year of 2020-21, Barrie led the league’s defencemen in total points, with 48 points in 56 games. At a glance, his production makes him seem like an incredibly valuable asset, but there are several red flags to note.
Firstly, Barrie had a 5v5 on-ice shooting% of 10.1%, the highest in his career since 2014. He also played roughly 80% of his time with at least one of McDavid or Draisaitl. To put that into perspective, Nurse typically plays about 60% of each season with one of those two, while Klefbom averaged 45-50%.
Not to mention, Barrie was dreadful defensively; he ranked last among Oilers D in both goals and expected goals allowed per hour.
Consequently, although he still remains a solid PP quarterback, it should have been evident that his point totals were inflated, and didn’t entirely reflect his true value.
Predictably, his 5v5 production declined this season. Barrie produced at a rate of 1.4 5v5 points per hour in 2020-21, but it regressed to 0.9 in 2021-22. With the emergence of Evan Bouchard, Barrie’s minutes also decreased.
As I wrote in my piece on Sunday, the arrival of Brett Kulak did significantly alter things for him. Barrie’s defensive metrics were above-average when playing alongside Kulak, and this was the only role in which he posted proficient defensive metrics in the past five years. The duo proceeded to have a solid playoff performance as well.
One can certainly argue that moving forward with a third pairing of Kulak – Barrie would be a fine decision.
However, as stated previously, Edmonton is in a tight cap crunch, and spending $4.5M for a 3RD is simply not ideal for this roster.
Furthermore, Barrie remains redundant with Evan Bouchard on the roster. Both are offensively-inclined RD with defensive issues, but Bouchard is younger, and is superior offensively. Ceci is also a better player, so it’s highly unlikely that Barrie would play top-four minutes with the Oilers next season (barring injuries).
If he was cheaper, I’d be perfectly fine with Barrie on the 3rd pair alongside Brett Kulak, but his contract and the presence of Evan Bouchard make him expendable.
Suggesting some potential trade ideas for Barrie, and options for replacements
Ideally, a RD replacement for Barrie should be a strong defensive defenceman, with the ability to effectively defend the rush. This is one of Barrie’s major weaknesses; in the past two seasons, 71% of zone entry targets against Barrie led to clean, controlled entries (league average is 58.4%). 19% of those entry targets led to scoring chances (league average is 14.6%).
Here’s a list of some RD options that I would pursue:
None of the UFAs above are exceptional point producers, which likely means their contracts will be cheap. Typically, unless they’re big, physical veterans, defensive defencemen seldom earn pricey contracts.
Carson Soucy’s name has been mentioned several times on OilersNow, and he would be a quality target. With the ability to play both LD and RD, Soucy is quite versatile, and he excels at suppressing chances off the rush. He also holds a cheap cap-hit of $2.8M.
Mark Pysyk denies the zone at a high rate, but he still allows a decently high amount of zone carries against, and ranks below-average at preventing chances off the entry. Nonetheless, he remains a strong in-zone defender. He’s expected to earn a contract around $1M-1.5M.
I’ve been an advocate for Scott Mayfield for a while. He’s a reliable entry and in-zone defender, and additionally possesses the capabilities to play in a tougher top-four role.
Due to his non-existent offence, some of Jani Hakanpää’s on-ice metrics aren’t phenomenal, but he’s the best rush defender on the list. At a cap-hit of $1.5M, he’s another low-risk option.
Ilya Lyubushkin is also an offensive blackhole, but similar to Pysyk, he’s an excellent in-zone defender.
In a sheltered role, Matt Benning’s results were quite good. He’s not a great entry defender, but he was reliable at suppressing in-zone chances in Nashville. He was on Edmonton’s roster from 2016-17 – 2019-20, and in that span, he led all Oilers defencemen in 5v5 goal differential, primarily deployed as the 3RD. I would certainly like to see him return in that role.
Moving onto potential trade suggestions, there’s several ways that the Oilers could approach a Barrie trade.
Barrie’s point totals still remain at a solid level, and a ~45-point RD with the ability to quarterback a PP will certainly garner interest from some teams around the league. His playoff performance likely increased his trade value by a decent margin as well.
Here are some of my potential trade ideas;
Trade Idea 1: Barrie to the Seattle Kraken for Carson Soucy
Seattle’s power play ranked 29th in the league. Their 5v5 Goals/60 also ranked 29th. With Adam Larsson at 1RD, they currently have William Borgen and Derrick Pouliot as their other RD. Seattle is in dire need of both 5v5 and PP offence, and their RD depth looks shallow.
A player like Barrie could be a great fit for their squad, and as mentioned above, Soucy is an excellent option.
Trade Idea 2: Barrie to the Dallas Stars for Jani Hakanpää and a draft pick
Dallas ranked 30th in the league in 5v5 Goals/60. It’s likely that they’re pursuing some offence, and their 2RD, John Klingberg, is a pending UFA. It makes sense for them to have some interest in Barrie. Hakanpää isn’t an exceptional player, but he would be cheaper, and an upgrade defensively.
Also; for those who value size and toughness, Hakanpää is 6’6, and had 248 hits in 80 games this season. His physicality plays a role in his strong entry defence results, as he’s quite aggressive when defending the blueline.
Trade Idea 3: Barrie to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Teddy Blueger and a draft pick
There’s a possibility that UFA Kris Letang does not re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Pittsburgh writer Dan Kingerski suggested Barrie as a potential replacement option for Letang.
Blueger is an excellent defensive forward in the role he plays in, with the additional ability to penalty-kill. Blueger’s impact on suppressing 5v5 chances ranks in the 95th percentile, and his impact on suppressing short-handed chances is in the 90th percentile. Blueger is also at a cheap cap-hit of $2.2M. This is a fairly reasonable deal for both sides.
Trade Idea 4: Barrie + to the New York Islanders for Scott Mayfield
It’s a bit difficult to properly assess Scott Mayfield’s trade value. It might be decently high; I’d wager that multiple teams would display interest in a 6’5 two-way RD with the ability to play top-four minutes, who only holds a $1.5M cap-hit.
I’m uncertain if the Islanders would accept a one-for-one deal, but a trade involving these two pieces would be a good idea. Is it enough to add a 2023 3rd round pick alongside Barrie?
The Islanders ranked 20th in 5v5 Goals/60, and they only have three NHL defencemen under contract for next season. Although they have Pulock and Dobson on their right side, they may show an interest in Barrie as an offensive boost.
Trade Idea 5: Barrie for a 2022 2nd round pick to any other team interested
It’s fair to say that Barrie’s trade value is approximately worth a 2nd round pick. This would be the most simple way to shed cap-space, and Edmonton could sign one of the above-mentioned UFAs as a replacement.
Perhaps Arizona agrees to take on his salary? If Seattle is reluctant to move Soucy, Barrie to Seattle for a 2nd is a perfectly fine deal.
On the Jeff Marek show, Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek mentioned Montreal as a possible destination for Barrie. They discussed a possible scenario where Montreal acquires Barrie as a short-term stopgap if they decide to deal Jeff Petry. This is yet another possibility.
It’s evident that Zack Kassian has not played up to his contract.
Both his production and underlying stats are exceedingly mediocre. Kassian has a total of just 30 points in the 100 games since his four-year, $3.2M extension. He remains a negative in both relative goal and expected goal differential in that span.
The major issue with Kassian is his inconsistency and his frequent lack of effort. When he’s on his game, Kassian can be an effective and tenacious forechecker, and a solid offensive asset. However, Kassian only seems to be on his game once or twice for every twenty, and he’s generally a non-factor.
It’s fair to conclude that he’s a replacement-level player at this stage. He’s poor in his own zone, he seldom contributes offensively, and his physicality isn’t enough to make up for it. Edmonton simply can’t spend $3.2M on him.
Trade Idea 1: Kassian + to the Ottawa Senators for Connor Brown
OilersNow host Bob Stauffer has mentioned a potential trade involving Kassian and Ottawa’s Connor Brown. Here’s a look at Brown’s numbers:
Brown is a respectable middle-six winger. He’s nothing special defensively, but he’s a strong playmaker in the offensive zone, and he excels at generating chances off the rush. Brown is also a fairly effective forechecker, with above-average finishing abilities as well.
Of course, Brown’s cap-hit is slightly higher than Kassian’s, but unlike Kassian, Brown is worth his cap-hit. A trade revolving around Kassian and Brown is a fine idea. Edmonton will likely need to add a prospect (Dmitri Samorukov?), or a 2023 2nd / 3rd round pick.
Trade Idea 2: Kassian + to the New Jersey Devils for draft picks
The Devils have $25M in cap-space. Considering that they have numerous smaller forwards, alongside the fact that they play in the same division as Tom Wilson, perhaps they pursue a guy like Kassian?
Edmonton could attach sweeteners, such as a 2023 2nd or 3rd round pick, and retain a small portion of Kassian’s salary to make it work.
As for other alternatives, it’s difficult to pinpoint several specific teams that would have an interest in Kassian. However, I’m quite confident that some teams would like to acquire a big, physical forward such as him; never underestimate the extent to which some GMs may value physicality and “grit.”
Should Edmonton trade their 2022 1st to move Kassian? Preferably not.
However, since Edmonton selects at 29th overall, perhaps dealing Kassian and a 1st for a mid-second round pick isn’t a dreadful idea. It isn’t the most significant difference to move from 29th overall to a draft position in the middle of the second round, and if it results in the departure of Kassian’s contract, it’s likely worth it. With that said, the realism and likelihood of such a deal occurring is uncertain.
Packaging Barrie and Kassian together to a team with plentiful cap-space is also an option. With $33M in cap-space, Arizona is the first team that comes to mind, but again, Edmonton would have to add some draft picks as sweeteners. Barrie could also be the additional asset in a potential deal involving Kassian and Brown (although if that’s the case, Ottawa should probably send back a draft pick as well).
As mentioned here, Frank Seravalli placed Kassian atop his list of potential Buyout Candidates. Although the buyout penalty isn’t abysmal, Edmonton should avoid holding more dead cap space, and they should certainly attempt finding a trade for him first.
What are your thoughts on the ideas I proposed? How would you approach a potential Barrie or Kassian trade?
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