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Photo Credit: © John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

What should the Leafs do with Tyson Barrie?

It seems as if the Leafs have been treated to three Tyson Barries so far this season.

First, we had the Babcock Tyson Barrie. He was the one who was horribly miscast on a shutdown pairing with Jake Muzzin, saw too many defensive zone starts against tough competition and successfully dragged down Muzzin rather than seeing Muzzin prop him up. He was robbed of his power play time, and was just generally an unhappy dude looking to be traded. It wasn’t fun.

Secondly, we had the offensive dynamo Tyson Barrie, who with the exception of maybe Mike Commodore, seemed to be happiest to see that Mike Babcock wasn’t coaching the Leafs any more. He put up 3 goals and 5 points in the first three games post Babcock, and we thought it would be smooth sailing after that. Ignoring the fact that after those first three games without Babcock, Barrie didn’t put up a point in his next six games, he’s become more a stable contributor with 17 points in the 25 games without Babcock. He’s doing what he’s been asked to do.

Finally we have the third Tyson Barrie. This Tyson Barrie definitely overlaps the second one, but it’s the one we’re becoming increasingly frustrated with because we have realized that Barrie isn’t very good at playing defense. A sin which was forgivable when playing with a partner like Muzzin or when he’d have sheltered usage, but not nearly as forgivable now that both Muzzin and Rielly are out long term and the Leafs need him to be a top blueliner.

That brings us back around to today and TSN’s Countdown to Tradecentre article, which is exploring what a contract extension in Toronto would look like…

Barrie got off to a slow start this season under Mike Babcock, but has thrived since the November coaching change to Sheldon Keefe. After posting 12 points with a minus-14 through his first 28 games, Barrie has 12 points and a plus-6 in 19 games since the beginning of December.

“Yeah, Sheldon has been great for me,’’ Barrie said on Tuesday. “I love the guys here and I’m starting to love the city and get to know it a little better and getting more comfortable. I have no idea what my future holds, it’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds, but definitely, I’m a big fan of it here.’’

LeBrun expects Barrie to command a salary around $8 million on his next contract, which could be troublesome for the cap-crunched Maple Leafs. He carries a $2.75 million cap hit this season, with the Colorado Avalanche retaining half his salary in their July trade.

EIGHT MILLION DOLLARS?!?!

There is no easier way to put it than that if that’s what it is going to cost to keep Tyson Barrie after this season. The Leafs have Morgan Rielly still on payroll as top unit power play quarterback, and while Rielly has numerous defensive shortcomings, he looks like Jake freakin’ Muzzin compared to Barrie. Factor in that both Sandin and Liljegren, along with Dermott and Muzzin are capable of being that second unit powerplay defenseman, and don’t see the puck die on their sticks in the offensive zone, moving on from Barrie at the end of the season seems like it will be necessary, unless he somehow manages to cost half of that.

But wait, maybe we should trade him instead of just letting him walk for nothing

I’m glad you pointed that out, what a good looking comment, and one that seems like it needs to be addressed.

There is unquestionably a market for Tyson Barrie, a right shooting defenseman who can play in any teams top four and is likely to be a first unit power play defenseman. Throw in the fact that he only has a cap hit of $2.75M, he’s sure to be the belle of the rental market if the Leafs chose to go that route.

Personally, I think they have to go that route.

Barrie has been little more than a redundancy of Morgan Rielly for the Leafs when they have needed him to be more, and by exploring trade options for him, they would be recouping a modest amount of salary cap space, and hopefully a first round draft pick, albeit one that is likely to come at the bottom of the first round.

Given that the Leafs sacrificed Kadri to get Barrie, it seems that recouping something for Barrie would potentially prevent some salt from getting into that wound.

What does the Leafs blueline look like without Barrie?

Well, if we were to look at it today, it would be insanely depressing, as Dermott, Holl, Marincin, Ceci, Sandin, and Liljegren is not exactly comfort food. Honestly, I’m not sure how much better I feel about it even with Barrie in there, but that’s the world we’re living in.

With Muzzin expected to return shortly after the All-Star break, it gets a little better. Muzzin, Dermott, and Sandin is a solid left side. Holl has been solid, Liljegren could show promise, and either Marincin and Ceci help ice a league compliant roster. Potentially when Rielly returns after the trade deadline, he could be a right side option, as he’s filled that role before and the absence of Barrie really doesn’t leave the Leafs a whole lot worse for wear, and this is all assuming that Dubas won’t do anything to address the position at the trade deadline.

In short, losing Barrie isn’t a significant loss. I feel like I’m becoming the boy who cried “trade everyone”, but it’s questionable the value the Leafs get from Barrie is worth mortgaging their future over, especially knowing that the next contract will put him outside this market.

He was brought in to be a rental

This is the one undeniable factor that might have me punching pillows on deadline day. Barrie was brought in as an offensive defenseman and everyone was well aware that he had one year left on his deal. Everyone knew he was going to cost a lot more money on his next contract. Now that we are staring down the realities of that as the trade deadline approaches and contract negotiations begin, we have to ask if anything has changed about that plan?

I’d argue that the time that Barrie has spent in Toronto, while it has improved, doesn’t warrant keeping him. The Leafs are better to move on from Barrie shortly after Muzzin returns or potentially sooner if a strong offer presents itself.