With the team clinging onto a playoff spot in late-February, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure for Kyle Dubas to make a big splash that saves the Maple Leafs.
Dubas has done some interesting salary cap maneuvering that has ultimately allowed him quite a bit of financial flexibility at the trade deadline thanks to the complicated thing known as the Long Term Injured Reserve. That said, Dubas has already dealt away the team’s first- and second-round picks in this year’s draft, so being a buyer won’t be that simple.
In order to make a splash this year to improve the team’s chances of going on a playoff run, Dubas, yet again, is going to have to get creative. With Tyson Barrie sent to become a free agent at the end of the season, it’s been suggested that Dubas recoup assets for the offensive-minded defender at the deadline. But, rather than dealing Barrie for prospects or picks and just hanging on to them, Dubas could recoup futures for Barrie that he ends up flipping elsewhere for an upgrade right now.
Bob McKenzie spoke on Insider Trading prior to the Leafs’ commanding 4-0 against the Penguins about the possibility of moving Barrie. Apparently, a lot of teams are interested and Dubas isn’t shying away from a deal.
“Over the course of this week, the Toronto Maple Leafs suffered two disastrous losses – one to Buffalo, one to Pittsburgh – that put, if not a dent in their playoff hopes, certainly a big dent in the perception of their playoff hopes around the league. And also, simultaneously, we had a week where a whole bunch of defencemen got traded and all those defencemen that were available? No longer available. So, suddenly the Toronto Maple Leafs started getting a lot of calls on pending UFA defenceman Tyson Barrie.
When those teams called, the Leafs basically told those teams that were interested ‘Yeah, you know what? We would consider under the right set of circumstances trading Tyson Barrie.’
But the first thing you need to know, it’s not a sell-off for future considerations, it’s not like a lot of the rental deals. The Toronto Maple Leafs don’t want some magic beans that might pay off down the road. Listen, one of two things has to happen in order for Barrie to be traded. Either they have to get a defenceman coming back that makes them a better team right now because they still want to make the playoffs, or they have to get picks and prospects that they could immediately parlay into that mythical unicorn right-shot defenceman that they’re looking to play with Morgan Rielly. And so that’s the circumstance under which Barrie could move.
Through 62 games, Barrie has 32 points while logging 21:44 minutes per game. He also boasts solid underlying numbers, though those don’t really truly paint the picture of Barrie’s underwhelming defensive play. While he has been viewed by many as a disappointment, Barrie really has been the player he was expected to be for most of the season.
The thing for the Leafs, though, is that letting him walk for nothing at the end of the season would be a tough pill to swallow, especially considering Nazem Kadri went the other way in order to acquire him. If Dubas could move Barrie for draft picks that he then subsequently used to acquire a defender with term on his contract, that would be a huge win.
This isn’t even about getting rid of Barrie so much as it is maximizing asset management. It isn’t common you see playoff teams sell off impending UFAs ahead of the deadline, but it’s happened before.
Most recently, in 2017, the Blues sent Kevin Shattenkirk, their top offensive defenceman, to the Capitals in exchange for Zach Sanford and a draft pick which they later used to acquire Brayden Schenn. Both Sanford and Schenn won the Stanley Cup with the Blues two years later. The Blues even made it as far in the playoffs in 2017 as Washington did with Shattenkirk.
Again, it isn’t something that happens often, but it’s possible. If dealing Barrie can help open the door to making the Leafs better, it’s absolutely something worth exploring. Given what defencemen like Brenden Dillon and Alec Martinez warranted in trades recently, Barrie should be able to return a pretty hefty package.