There’s an interesting conversation happening when it comes to the Edmonton Oilers and the future of a player like Tyson Barrie. Of course, after three-straight losses and only a single goal in nine periods of hockey, some fans will suggest the sky is falling. In actuality, that’s not why the debate is happening at all.
What direction the Oilers eventually take with Barrie will be an interesting decision to watch. He’s had a relatively strong season — despite the past three games and a bit of a slow start — and he’s filled in well when it comes to the hole left by the injured Oscar Klefbom. Barrie will be a pending unrestricted free agent and likely look to capitalize on his strong offensive numbers.
The question for Edmonton will become whether or not Barrie is the right long-term fit, or if another defensemen will assume his role. That could be a returning Klefbom, but it also could be a player like Evan Bouchard.
Not Rushing Bouchard, But Too Many Righties
Clearly, it’s not a good idea for the Oilers to rush Bouchard and while he’s not a regular in the Oilers lineup, he’s often one of the team’s better blueliners when it comes to scoring chances and offensive output. He’s been moved over to the left side with the return of Ethan Bear and he’s taken a step back as a result. It’s something Mark Spector of Sportsnet noticed.
During an interesting conversation with Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, Spector contended that it’s not ideal the Oilers are trying to break Bouchard into the league on the wrong side. He’s got the potential to be one of the team’s better blueliners in the next few seasons and the club is slotting him where he likely shouldn’t be, even if Bouchard suggests he’s comfortable enough there. Stauffer didn’t disagree and then pointed to the movie Money Ball where Oakland Athletic’s GM Billy Bean traded a player to make room for one with a similar skill set and one he wanted to see get more reps in.
Stauffer’s tease was that if you can’t find room for a player like Bouchard, you make room for him. The way to do that is to trade the asset that plays in the position Bouchard should be in. He brought up Ethan Bear, Adam Larrson and Tyson Barrie as possible options, but suggested that Barrie might be the guy you move because he doesn’t kill penalties and he’s a pending UFA.
The Argument Against Moving Barrie
I had a chance to speak with Oilers play-by-play broadcaster Jack Michaels and I asked if he believed the Oilers would sign Barrie at the end of the season. He suggested Edmonton would do what they could to get that deal done, because he’s not necessarily convinced Klefbom will be back.
Michaels says, “He’s a weapon that the Oilers haven’t had in years, and that’s no disrespect to Oscar Klefbom, but part of the reason I say re-sign him is that I’m not 100% sure that Oscar Klefbom is coming back anytime soon.”
Michaels didn’t bring up Bouchard’s position with the team, but it makes sense that the Oilers might be looking at extending Barrie if they’re uncertain about their former No. 1 defender.
There is, of course, the argument that depth is key and too many good right-handed options is a nice problem to have. That is true. But, if it’s coming at the expense of Bouchard’s development, is it still the best way to go?
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