Buffalo Sabres Debate: Is Tyson Barrie An Affordable Option?

Apr 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) looks to pass the puck in the second period against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) looks to pass the puck in the second period against the St. Louis Blues at the Pepsi Center. The Blues defeated the Avalanche 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

Twitter folk are convinced the Buffalo Sabres should go after Colorado’s young blueliner, so the Sabre Noise staff shares our two cents!

The Twitterverse is abuzz over Tyson Barrie once again, Buffalo Sabres fans.

The first time his name started popping up all over my timeline as someone the Buffalo Sabres had to go out and get NOOOWW PLEASEEEEE, I was amused at the frenzy.  In an effort to be satirical, I wrote this piece, and then got ripped a few new ones by people who think Tyson Barrie is THE solution to Buffalo’s playoffs drought.


Seems people thought I was arguing that Barrie was not good enough to play for the Buffalo Sabres, or some such nonsense – whatever they thought, I caught a lot of flack.

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Now that the Tyson Barrie buzz is starting up again, thanks to Elliotte Friedman and Bob McKenzie telling anyone who listen Friday that they definitely think that Barrie is in play, it’s time to look at what it would take to bring Barrie into Buffalo, and whether such a trade would be worth it.

Let’s shut up some people right now: no one is saying that the Sabres have a defense that could not use Tyson Barrie.  You can ALWAYS use a good player – that’s kind of obvious.  The Sabres could also use Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Duncan Keith – you get the point.  Just because a player is good doesn’t mean your team will expend a ton of resources pursuing him – your entire team will never be made up of All-Stars, as much as you wish it.  Unless the player is a bona fide superstar, teams tend to chase targets only if they have a need for them, and since Barrie is no superstar, the Sabres will only pursue him if they feel they need him.

With Buffalo being weak on the left side of the ice, and loaded with right-handed shots at the blueline, there is not necessarily a pressing need to get Barrie.  Still, Barrie has already shown he can play on the left side of the ice, so let’s assume the Sabres see Barrie as an upgrade they would like to have and are willing to shuffle a few righties out the door in order to make a deal happen.

To clarify: Tyson Barrie is good, would help the Sabres score, and it would be wonderful if there was a way to bring him on board.

Now: the question is, can the Buffalo Sabres afford to bring him on board?

Here is where things get tricky, and why I wasn’t drinking the “Buffalo has to make Tyson Barrie a priority” Kool Aid on Twitter.  Many of the folks on Twitter who think the Sabres should go hard after Barrie are doing so under the assumption that the Colorado Avalanche front office is going to give Barrie away for a handful of magic beans (or maybe a really cheap dime bag, BADUM TSSSS!).  It’s easy to assume that every trade with Colorado is going to resemble the one that sent Ryan O’Reilly to the 716, in which Buffalo surrenders two so-so players for a really solid player.  And it’s true that Colorado is afraid that it will not be able to afford Barrie, which is pretty much the entire reason why the Avs shipped ROR out of town.

There is a difference between the ROR scenario and the Barrie scenario – namely, Colorado did not need O’Reilly, but really should re-examine their stance on Barrie.  The Avalanche were loaded with talent up the middle when they shipped ROR out of town, but in the case of Barrie, the Avs are not negotiating from a position of strength here.  Colorado’s only two blueliners worth a damn are Barrie and Erik Johnson, and even with these two young guys, the Avs surrendered a league-leading 4,036 even-strength shots on goal in 2015-16 – yikes.

What this amounts too is Colorado being too cheap to want to pay Barrie; that, or the team is heading in a different direction, as many reports have the Avs looking for more physical players at the blueline.  Either way, it sounds like the Colorado Avalanche are ripe for the picking, right?

Somehow, I don’t think so this time.  Barrie was the 13th highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL last season, and with all of the buzz surrounding his availability, I would be amazed if SOMEONE in Colorado’s front-office isn’t aware of Barrie’s worth.  It’s entirely possible that the Avalanche are dangling Barrie as trade-bait in order to see what they can get for him, in the hopes of fleecing a desperate team.

Are the Buffalo Sabres desperate?  No.  They hold the 8th pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and will be able to draft either a forward with top-6 potential or a defenseman with top-4 potential.  Could they use depth and an upgrade over Mark Pysyk or Zach Bogosian?  Certainly, although losing Bogo will deprive the team of one of its more physical presences.  Having watched the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, you can argue that the most successful teams really do not have much of a physical presence at the blueline, and that losing Bogo for Barrie is an acceptable result.

It was Matthew Coller of WGR550 who first floated the idea of a Bogosian-for-Barrie trade Friday on Twitter:

Coller also thinks giving up the 8th pick in the current draft is worth it.  I agree with either of these scenarios – Bogosian straight-up for Barrie or the 8th plus maybe a third-round pick for the kid would sit well with me – but why do I get the feeling that neither of those packages will be enough?

Well, because of the Edmonton Oilers, for starters.   After the Avalanche, the Oilers are probably the NHL team that most needs help on defense, and they possess a better draft pick and plenty of young players that we all know are available.  If the Avalanche are smart, they play a team like the Oilers against the Buffalo Sabres in a game of chicken to see who blinks first.

Next: Sabres Draft Options: Alexander Nylander

Of course, it just won’t be the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers who will be calling about Barrie.  A 24 year-old blueliner who is among the league’s best scorers is a hot commodity, which is why I find it puzzling to hear so many people claim that Barrie will be gotten cheaply.  If the Avalanche are happy with just a handful of picks from Buffalo, you make that trade any day of the week.  If Sabres GM Tim Murray can get Colorado to bite on a trade that involves 1 or 2 blueliners, such as Bogosian and Cody Franson (or any other player, as long as the team is only giving up one top-4 defenseman and definitely not a top-6 forward), again, you make that trade.

But with so many teams guaranteed to inquire about Barrie’s availability, will the winning bid be that low?

The Buffalo Sabres made significant strides toward becoming a playoff team in 2015-16, and are in a position to pick up some key players via the draft, free agency and opportunistic trades.  Given the public nature of the Tyson Barrie rumors and the fact that there are teams who are most desperate than the Sabres, it is tough to believe that Buffalo will be able to acquire Barrie for as cheaply as I have outlined.  That doesn’t mean GMTM doesn’t try – lightning may strike twice. It simply means that this is a “Proceed With Caution” type of trade – Tyson Barrie is a want, not a need, and the Sabres only have so much to give.

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if any Sabres-Avalanche chatter begins heating up as the 2016 NHL Entry Draft approaches.