Colorado Avalanche: Business and Tyson Barrie


The Tyson Barrie situation has given Colorado Avalanche fans a new source of conflict and debate and put GM Joe Sakic in a difficult situation.

As the drama unfolds between the Colorado Avalanche and defenseman Tyson Barrie, it’s essential that emotions don’t get in the way.

Barrie is a unique type player in the modern NHL.  His speed and offensive creativity allow him to create offense from the blueline, push the rush and direct the power play. There are not many defenders with the same skill set, making Barrie an invaluable asset to the Avs.

Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic has stated that Barrie will be with the Avs next season. However, Barrie’s fate is all but certain as rumors persist he will be traded. Either way, the results of Barrie’s arbitration promise to drastically affect the future of the organization.  

Barrie has attracted considerable interest from around the league, and if the Colorado Avalanche can find the right deal, it might be worth letting him go.  On the other hand, Barrie’s unique skill set will make him extremely difficult to replace.  As Sakic considers his options with Barrie, it is most important that he remain logical and factor emotion out of the equation.

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Perhaps the most important factor that will determine Barrie’s long-term future with the Avs is the current market for elite defensemen.  As elite offensive-minded defensemen have risen to prominence in the NHL, so too has their market value.  

Look no further than the Taylor Hall (forward) for Adam Larsson (defenseman) trade. Indeed, consider PK Subban for Shea Weber — and how it rocked hockey fandom — to get an idea of what defensemen can be worth on the open market.  This alone could provide reason enough for Sakic to move Barrie, provided the right deal is out there.

On the other hand, the high market for defenders will likely inflate Barrie’s negotiation position, as he seeks a large raise from his last contract, which paid him $5.2 million over two seasons.

Currently, Barrie is scheduled for salary arbitration on July 29th.  Until then, he can’t be traded, making the decision of the arbitrator all the more important the Colorado Avalanche.  

Apr 3, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during a shootout against the New York Rangers at Pepsi Center. The Avalanche won 3-2 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during a shootout against the New York Rangers at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s hard to get a read on how an arbitrator might view Barrie’s worth.  The last couple of years have seen several elite defenders receive large contracts. However, the numbers don’t provide a consistent measure that can be applied to Barrie.  

For example, P.K. Subban’s contract pays him an average annual value (AAV) of $9 million a year, while Erik Karlsson earns only $6.5 million in comparison.  In 2016 alone, defenders Jason Demers, Torey Krug, Seth Jones, Keith Yandle, Alex Goligoski, Sami Vatanen, Morgan Rielly and Jared Spurgeon have all received long-term deals with AAVs between $4.5 and $6.3 million.   

None of these players are perfect comparables for Barrie’s style of play – perhaps Vatanen and Rielly being the closest.  Yet, they give us an idea of what the arbitrator will likely be looking at when deciding Barrie’s case.

Next: Frustration With Tyson Barrie

Usually, after every major trade, a GM or player inevitably reminds us that “it’s just business”.  Although I’m tired of hearing this with every trade, it’s an accurate statement that is especially applicable to the Barrie situation.  

The market is high for defenders like Barrie.  Sakic needs to make a business decision and decide if Barrie is worth $4.5-6 million a year, or if he should cash in on the inflated trade value of defenders and find Barrie a new home.  

Right now, I’m hoping there’s some GM out there willing to overpay for Barrie.  Either way, Sakic needs to keep emotions out of it, and leave that to the fans – after all, it’s just business.