Colorado Avalanche vs Tyson Barrie a Game of Dare

Mar 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) controls the puck ahead of Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (9) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 5, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) controls the puck ahead of Nashville Predators center Filip Forsberg (9) in the second period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Rather than settle their issues with cool heads, the Colorado Avalanche and Tyson Barrie opted to go the distance with salary arbitration.

The results of defenseman Tyson Barrie‘s salary arbitration hearing with the Colorado Avalanche are in:

Four years at an annual average value of  $5.5 million.

Even before the results, I was shaking my head about the whole process — a lot of Colorado Avalanche fans were. It doesn’t matter your chosen camp in (greedy) player vs (tightwad) team. This was just ridiculous.

The two sides were never far off. Yet they were the only ones to go the whole distance in the salary arbitration process this year. That’s 23 other cases — including one between the Avalanche and Mikhail Grigorenko — that got decided in a pre-arbitration settlement.

Barrie vs Colorado wasn’t like P.K. Subban vs the Montreal Canadiens two years ago. Subban wanted the maximum in term, eight years, along with the third-highest salary in the NHL, $9 million. What’s weird is he’d asked for $8.5 million with Montreal offering $5.25 million.

While that case went to arbitration, the two sides settled before the arbiter came down with a decision. However, we can see that the relationship was damaged — Montreal shipped Subban off to the Nashville Predators this summer.

Related Story: Avs Should Have Pursued Subban

This wasn’t even a case like two years ago with center Ryan O’Reilly. Colorado wanted to base his new salary off his cap hit, $5 million. O’Reilly wanted to base it off his actual salary, $6.5 million. That lopsided contract got awarded after very contentious dealings two years earlier.

That case got settled on the very doorstep of the arbiter’s office. O’Reilly had wanted $6.75 million, while Colorado was willing to offer $5.525 million. He ended up with a two-year, $12 million contract and a ticket out of Colorado ASAP.

Related Story: Ryan O'Reilly and the Hillside Song

Former Denver Post writer Adrian Dater loves to talk about the salary arbitration case involving Tommy Salo. Salo’s hearing with Mike Milbury, then GM of the New York Islanders, was apparently so contentious that he burst into tears. (Remember, this was a guy who stood in front of speeding pucks for a living.) The relationship stayed strained — to the point that Salo refused to discuss it even years later.

That’s why it mystifies me that Barrie and the Avalanche went the distance. They just weren’t that far off on numbers, and previous negotiations hadn’t been strained.

Look at the numbers. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet, Barrie asked for $6 million, but that was his inflated negotiation price. He had to know he’d have to drop to at least $5.5 million.

Friedman also reported that the Colorado Avalanche were willing to go up to $4.25 million. Again, that was a negotiation price, so they had to know they’d need to go up to at least $4.75 million.

So now we’re talking about a difference of $750,000 — a king’s ransom to me, but relatively little in these kind of dealings. Are you really telling me the two sides couldn’t agree on ~$5.25 million before the arbitration hearing?

Granted term could have been an issue. Barrie apparently wanted a one-year deal. Colorado wanted two. However, why would that be a sticking point for the Avalanche? After a year, Barrie would have still been a restricted free agent.

In the title, I call the situation a game of dare, but that’s because I didn’t want to get profane in the title. Truthfully, the Barrie vs Colorado arbitration appears to be a pissing contest. No side wanted to back down — they wanted to see who’d go the farthest.

The Colorado Avalanche didn’t have a contentious relationship with Tyson Barrie before. However, they did have a contentious relationship with his agent, or rather agency. Barrie is represented by an agent that’s part of Newport Sports Management, which is renowned for its bulldog tactics.

Now, GM Joe Sakic isn’t known for his fiery temper — he’s the epitome of a cool head. And as a former player, he knows that side of the business from both angles. And Barrie doesn’t have exactly the same agent as O’Reilly, Pat Morris, but rather Don Meehan.

However, Newport Sports Management agent Pat Morris called the Avalanche out in the media, and it was under Joe Sakic’s watch. And I’m guessing Newport Sports Management cherishes its reputation as bulldogs for players rights. Like I said, pissing contest.

The arbitration hearing should have never happened. It did, though, and Barrie got his payout.

More About Tyson Barrie:

Prior to this, Tyson Barrie was earning himself a permanent spot in the Colorado Avalanche core. However, the relationship between the two sided is sure to be bruised. O’Reilly got traded. Superstar P.K. Subban got traded. Even Tommy Salo got traded all those years ago.

Barrie will be a Colorado Avalanche for a maximum of two years, I predict. Now Tyson is only wearing burgundy and blue on borrowed time.