I remember musing a couple of summers ago that this off-season would be a great opportunity to land a right-handed offensive defenceman. I didn’t think Alex Pietrangelo would be a realistic possibility, but there were a handful of other options out there. The most exciting of those other names was Tyson Barrie.
Holy fucking shit, here we are on day 2 of the free agency period in 2020, and the Oilers have signed Tyson fucking Barrie!! Why is Tyson Barrie so exciting? Here are his point totals from the last 3 seasons:
2017-18: 57 points in 68 games (!)
2018-19: 59 points in 78 games
2019-20: 39 points in 70 games
He’s a dynamic puck moving and point producing defenceman that happens to be a righty. The Oilers have been DYING to have this player for over a decade, and today, they finally have this player.
Barrie instantly makes the powerplay better, which is a scary proposition considering that the Oilers had the best powerplay in the league and it had the 2nd best success rate in the last 40 years. The fact that he is a right shot means that he will be able to get the puck moving from the right side of the rink to the left side faster than Klefbom was able to, and he will be able to be a one timer option for McDavid and Draisaitl on the right half wall. Add Barrie’s ability to roam and make plays, and you’ve got a powerplay that will keep opposing coaches and players awake at night. Here are Barrie’s powerplay point totals and league ranks among defencemen for the last 3 seasons:
2017-18: 30 points (3rd)
2018-19: 25 points (6th)
2019-20: 12 points (T-27th)
He’s still a top powerplay point producer even in a down year. If he’s on, he’s got a track record of being one of the best in the league. Fuck that is exciting!
There’s some chatter out there that suggests that Barrie is simply a powerplay specialist. It’s clear that he excels on the powerplay, but Barrie was quick to throw water on water on that fire today by suggesting that he feels that claim to be unwarranted. Let’s look at his even strength scoring totals over the last three seasons:
2017-18: 27 points (T-25th)
2018-19: 33 points (13th)
2019-20: 27 points (T-20th)
Make no mistake about it – Barrie is a top pairing point producing defenceman at even strength. Darnell Nurse was 18th in even strength point production last season. There are only 5 other teams that can boast having two of the top 20 even strength point producing defencemen from last season on their rosters for next season: NSH (Josi and Ellis), NYR (DeAngelo and Fox), CAR (Slavin and Hamilton), MTL (Weber and Petry), and probably VGK (Theodore and Pietrangelo). Fuck that’s exciting!
I guess the next question to ask is can he defend? This is admittedly a difficult thing to quantify, but I think the best ways that we have to quantify it are goals for % and Corsi %. I still feel that any stat involving goals or shots for or against is flawed because they don’t account for the impact of the teammates that they share the ice with at a given time, but I digress. Let’s look at his Goals for % and Corsi % over the last three seasons against all competition as found on PuckIQ:
2017-18: GF% – 52.5%, Corsi % – 48.2%
2018-19: GF% – 52.3%, Corsi % – 52.4%
2019-20: GF% – 49.2%, Corsi % – 53.5%
Obviously, the goal is to be above 50% for both of these metrics. Barrie was there for all metrics except for Corsi % in 2017-18, and GF % in 2019-20. I’m not particularly worried about the fact that he was marginally outshot when he was on the ice 3 seasons ago, and he was outscored 59-61 last season… his contributions on the powerplay will more than make up for that 2 goal difference. He was above 50% in the other two years. Barrie is not a liability defensively based on what I can tell from these numbers.
This signing checks a few boxes for Ken Holland and the Oilers. Holland wanted to add more puck moving ability to the group, and Barrie does that. He wanted to add a powerplay quarterback to fill in for Klefbom while he’s out, and Barrie is an upgrade on Klefbom in that regard. The one-year term is nice for Edmonton because it gives Evan Bouchard one more full year to develop, and it means that the cap hit ($3.75 million) is manageable for the Oilers. It’s a good contract for Barrie because he gets to show the league what he can do, and he will have a great opportunity to do just that while playing with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The door will be open for an extension because Kris Russell and Adam Larsson represent $8,166,666 in contracts on defence that will expire after next season.
I fucking love Barrie (as a player), and I like him even more after listening to his interview today. He called coming to Edmonton a “no-brainer”. Edmonton. Cold, boring old Edmonton. A “no-brainer”. He said that the Oilers have been on his radar as a place that he would like to play for a number of years now. Connor McDavid apparently reached out to Barrie and told him that it would be nice to have him on the team. FINALLY, we get to see some of the impact of having the world’s best player on our team when it comes to attracting free agents.
He also talked about how he likes how Edmonton plays. He talked about how he likes how the Oilers attack with speed and draw other teams back, and he talked about how the Oilers like to get the puck deep and pass it back to the trailer. McDavid and Draisaitl do that ALL THE DAMN TIME! You know who will fill the net as the trailer? Tyson fucking Barrie. He talked about how he likes to jump up in the rush and beat the forecheckers back to their zone. We’re going to see a shit ton of highlights of McDavid and Draisaitl finding a trailing Barrie wide open in the slot.
Barrie also talked a lot about his confidence. He said that he is a good player that still has a lot to offer. I believe him. He talked about second guessing himself in Toronto. Given his slow start there under Mike Babcock, I believe him. He talked about how he needed to get back to just having confidence in his reads and his decisions on the ice. He knows what he needs to do out there. There was no doubt in his voice. He looks and sounds like a confident man on a mission. I’m fucking pumped to see him in Oilers orange and blue!
Coach Tippett will have some decisions to make as far as the pairings are concerned. He could decide to split up the Nurse-Bear pairing and put the two best even strength point producers together on one pairing:
He could also stack the top 2 pairs with puck-movers:
I haven’t even mentioned how this could look if Klefbom were to come back for the playoffs:
Good Lord, that’s a lot of skill on the back-end!
Alright, enough about Barrie for now. I have to talk about the news that brought the mood on Oilers Twitter down today as well, the re-signing of Mike Smith. It’s a one-year deal with a $1.5 million cap hit and $500k in potential bonuses based on games played and playoff success.
Smith is a 38-year old goalie that had the 59th worst save percentage (.900) among goalies that have played at least 40 games in the last two seasons. Let’s take a closer look at last season’s numbers for Smith:
Save %: .902 (T-55th)
GAA: 2.95 (T-46th)
There’s no beating around the bush here: the numbers are fucking brutal for Smith. His league-wide rankings suggest that he is in the bottom 3rd of back-ups in the league.
We know damn well that Smith wasn’t Holland’s first choice. We all heard the reports that Holland was trying to get Jakob Markstrom to sign here, but he ultimately chose to sign with the Flames. There were reports that Holland was in on Holtby as well. That was a tough pair of goalies to go after because the Canucks would’ve known that Markstrom was moving on before anybody, and they were the competition for Holtby. Once Holtby signed in Vancouver, Holland had to hope that Markstrom would sign here or risk striking out. Tough spot for Holland in those negotiations. I have a hard time believing that Holland didn’t talk to anyone else as well before circling back to Smith.
We also knew that Smith would be a possibility for this season because Holland said he would be comfortable with this weeks ago. One has to wonder why that would be the case given the numbers. There is one important number that we are ignoring here:
Wins: 19 (T-21st)
Smith had a 19-12-6 record last season. Ultimately, he was above real .500, so things could’ve been much worse. He was almost top 20 in the league in wins, and he had 6 OT losses. It could’ve been a lot better if not for some poor overtime results. He had some hot streaks during the year. He only lost three times from January 4th onwards last season, and two of those losses were in his last two starts in March. He has hot streaks, but when he is bad, he does it right. There were 8 games out of his 38 starts where he allowed 4 or more goals. Those games are killers. The Oilers lost all but 2 of those games.
Smith was certainly not the goalie that I or anyone else wanted, but I can understand Holland circling back to him given his relationship with Tippett, his record being slightly above real .500 last year, his passion and his compete level, and his puck handling ability. He makes the odd gaffe with the puck, but he makes far more plays that get the puck out of the Oilers zone than puck handling gaffes that result directly in goals.
Holland took a swing at the best available goalie, and he missed. That resulted in him missing the boat on the other really good ones. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but it is what it is. The Oilers were in 2nd place in the Pacific Division in mid-March with Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith as the goalies. Things could be worse.
Here’s the updated cap situation after Saturday’s signings:
Nuge ($6M) McDavid ($12.5M) Puljujarvi ($1.175M)
Ennis ($1M) Draisaitl ($8.5M) Yamamoto ($894,166)
Neal ($5.75M) Turris ($1.65M) Kassian ($3.2M)
Nygard ($875K) Haas ($915K) Archibald ($1.5M)
Khaira ($1.2M) Chiasson ($2.25M)
Nurse ($5.2M) Barrie ($3.75M)
Russell ($4M) Bear (RFA)
Jones ($750k) Larsson ($4,166,666)
IR: Klefbom ($4,167,000)
Retained: Lucic ($750k)
Buyout: Pouliot ($1,333,333), Sekera ($2.5M)
Cap Space: $1,135,835
On the surface, it appears that the Oilers only have $1,135,835 to re-sign Ethan Bear and add a 7D. However, the Oilers will be able to put Oscar Klefbom on LTIR once the season starts. It would be ideal to have Bear signed before then, but they don’t HAVE to sign Bear until Klefbom goes on to LTIR since he’s an RFA. He’s not going anywhere, so they can have a contract negotiated and just not signed until Klefbom goes onto LTIR. The LTIR money would be used on Bear instead of trying to add a guy after the season starts.
I can’t help but wonder if the Klefbom situation has impacted Holland’s game plan. I wonder if Holland would’ve even gone after Barrie if not for the Klefbom injury. The powerplay was dynamic with Klefbom last season, so I can’t see a reason to upgrade aside from the injury. I can’t help but wonder if Holland would’ve offered Markstrom more money if he hadn’t in on Barrie as well. It’s possible that neither signing that happened today would’ve happened if Klefbom’s shoulder were in full health. I’m happy about Barrie, but I can’t help but fantasize about having a solid and confidence inspiring solution in net for the long-term. Oh, what could’ve been.
Holland also has to have a plan for becoming cap compliant should Klefbom end up coming off of the LTIR at any point during the season. That plan would likely involve trading one of Russell or Larsson.
I also wouldn’t rule out Holland moving some money off of the existing roster in the next little while. Alex Chiasson is the most obvious choice to be moved out now. The return of Puljujarvi has pushed Chiasson down to the 5th RW spot on the depth chart. He managed to hold value as a PP guy last season, but James Neal, Puljujarvi, and Kyle Turris could all theoretically see time in Chiasson’s spot on the top unit. His leadership would be missed, but Chiasson and his $2.25 million could easily be sacrificed in the name of cap space.
There is still a lot of time for Holland to tinker with the roster, but there are only 2 open spots left. One belongs to Bear, and the other is an extra spot that could very well be filled by another RFA, William Lagesson. I think we’ve seen the biggest fireworks that the Oilers are going to offer this summer.
All in all, I have to say that I’m pleased with how Hollans’d free agency period has started. He addressed what I felt was the most important hole on the roster with a 0.5 point per game right-handed centre, and he only spent $1.65 million to do it. He found a value contract in Ennis, who is a decent bet to score 40+ points playing with McDavid or Draisaitl. I’ll take that for $1 million all day. He also added one of the better right-handed offensive defencemen in the league in Barrie. The Oilers are unquestionably a better team right now than they were in August, and Holland did not tie himself to any long-term deals. I didn’t necessarily like the Smith signing, but I’d call the last two days a win for Holland and the Oilers.