Prospect Ramblings: (Update) Barrie, Avs avoid arbitration ruling

Mark Allan

2016-07-30

Tyson Barrie seems determined to go the distance in arbitration with the Colorado Avalanche, whose coach Patrick Roy is rumored to have sourced on the young offensive defenseman.

 

UPDATE: The Colorado Avalanche signed defenseman Tyson Barrie to a four-year, $22-million contract Sunday hours before an arbitration ruling was due.

Tyson, the only one of 25 NHL players who filed for arbitration this year who went through with a hearing, settled for an average annual value of $5.5 million, closer to what he wanted than the number the Avs offered.

The 25-year-old led all Colorado blueliners with 13 goals, 36 assists and 49 points. Barrie is already tied for the franchise lead with Sandish Ozolinsh at 11 career game-winning goals.

 

As with most things in a union environment, arbitration is a compromise, a mechanism in the collective bargaining agreement to resolve a contract dispute between team and player.

Unlike a mediator, an arbitrator’s ruling is binding on both parties. It’s like going to court: You might feel you’ve made a good case but both sides are nervous because who knows what a judge or a jury will decide?

Arbitration in the NHL involves free agents, either unrestricted veterans or their younger restricted counterparts who are still beholden to their team but have earned limited bargaining rights with the option of an arbitrator.

When team and player cannot agree on a contract, there are several possible outcomes after the former typically submits a lowball offer and the latter inflates his value (very much like buying/selling a home):

  1. They keep negotiating, and reach agreement before their joint hearing with an arbitrator.
  2. They meet with an arbitrator, then reach agreement before a decision is announced within a couple of days.
  3. The arbitrator chooses one of the two proposals.

The hearing can be devastating for players, whose agents have 90 minutes to justify their contract demands but also have to hear the team punch holes in their game for 90 minutes and devalue the player’s worth to the squad. Players have been known to burst into tears.

Even if a team “wins” an arbitration decision, it loses. Sure, it’s all just business, but players can be resentful and their play can suffer after they’ve been ripped in a hearing. Poor morale can spread to teammates.

Accordingly, few arbitrators ever reach scenario No. 3. A rare exception was center Ryan O’Reilly’s rancorous arbitration battle with the Colorado Avalanche several years ago. He’s with the rising Sabres now.

Of 25 NHL players who filed for arbitration this year, guess what one player with which team even went through with a hearing?

Defenseman Tyson Barrie is rumored to be asking for a one-year, $6-million deal. The Avalanche is believed to have offered a two-year contract worth $4 million and $4.25 million. After they submitted their respective positions Friday to arbitrator Elizabeth Neumeier, she will rule by Sunday afternoon.

Complicating GM Joe Sakic’s life is dissatisfaction about Barrie by fiery coach Patrick Roy, who has never been shy about telling anyone exactly what he thinks about them. According to persistent rumblings tumbling down from the Rockies, Roy has decided the free-wheeling Barrie isn’t his kind of blueliner.

Barrie has totaled 102 points in 158 games the past two seasons, although he is undersized and unphysical, and his plus-minus plunged from plus-17 to plus-5 to minus-16 the past three seasons.

Still, the blueline has been Colorado’s weak spot. Although Sakic has been strengthening it, he surely would prefer to pay a motivated, upbeat, productive Barrie. If not, Sakic could be forced into a player trade, or a coach firing, no matter how the arbitration process plays out.

If Roy stays, and sticks to his reported desire (against the current NHL trend) about wanting large, tough blueliners, that could favor 6-5, 220-pound Nikita Zadorov, a former first-rounder whom Sakic obtained from Buffalo – if the hulking Russian begins making better decisions.

Fellow prospect Chris Bigras is not big or physical, but he is defensively responsible.

Unless Roy or Barrie leaves, Barrie could lose some icetime, although Roy would be stubborn even for him if he doesn’t have Barrie on the first-unit PP.

 

* * *

 

In other significant arbitration news this week:

Jaden Schwartz illustrates why the Blues locked him up for five more seasons:

 

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  • Talented young left winger Jaden Schwartz agreed Friday to a five-year, $26.75-million contract with St. Louis. It looks like he’ll complement Vladimir Tarasenko on the Blues’ top line for years to come.
  • Toronto defenseman Martin Marincin, 24, avoided a hearing Aug. 2 by agreeing Friday to a two-year, $1.25-million offer. He had one goal, six assists and 34 penalty minutes in 65 games last season, and will be a depth defenseman for the Leafs.
  • Defenseman Michael Stone skipped a hearing Aug. 4 by signing a one-year contract Thursday with the Arizona Coyotes. A solid SOG generator from the point, he’ll be a UFA in a year.
  • Four others avoided arbitration Wednesday, including winger Mike Hoffman inking a four-year, $20.75-million deal with the Senators. Ottawa needs the speedy sniper, coming off a 29-goal, 30 assist season, to be an important part of its future.
  • Petr Mrazek agreed July 27 with Detroit on a two-year, $8-million pact before their arbitration hearing. The Red Wings think Mrazek is now their No. 1 netminder, and they want him to be, but they’d like to see a larger sample size before committing to a longer deal.
  • Danny DeKeyser was locked up for six years by GM Ken Holland for a total of $30 million. It goes without saying that the Red Wings are counting on him to help stabilize their blueline for some time.
  • Versatile forward Vladimir Namestnikov signed a two-year, $3.875-million deal with the Lightning. The big fish Tampa GM Steve Yzerman is still trying to land without much cap space is star right winger Nikita Kucherov.
  • Nashville signed center Calle Jarnkrok on July 27 to a six-year, $12-million contract. The undersized, versatile forward had NHL career highs last season with 16 goals and 14 assists, and the Predators hope the former Detroit draft pick can keep evolving while on a team-friendly contract.
  • Acknowledging his worth to the team, the Flyers signed forward Brayden Schenn to a four-year, $20.5-million deal July 25, the same day of their arbitration hearing. Schenn contributed 26 goals and 33 assists last season.

I'll be back in a week to ramble once more….

Mark Allan

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