Toronto Maple Leafs: What to do with each pending unrestricted free agent

Tyson Barrie #94 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
Tyson Barrie #94 of the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Toronto Maple Leafs
Tyson Barrie #94 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in warm-ups prior to the game against the New York Islanders at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

Tyson Barrie

When the Leafs made the trade with the Colorado Avalanche sending Nazem Kadri in exchange for Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot, it was easy to see how the deal would work out for both sides.

The Avalanche got a legitimate second-line centre that could play behind Nathan MacKinnon, while the Leafs received a capable top-four defenceman and a forward that they expected to occupy Kadri’s spot on the third line.

Unfortunately, Barrie had a rough start to his time in Toronto and you can bet that part of it had to do with the way Mike Babcock was using him and it was clear the right-handed shot was struggling to establish a role other than being used on the top power-play unit.

If the Leafs decided to cut bait with the 28-year-old, that leaves a significant hole for the front office to fill on the right side of the blue line. There has been discussion surrounding the possibility of trading some of the team’s forward depth for a defenceman, but it’s tough to say whether that will be possible.

Some would say there is a case to bring Barrie back considering he might not find what he is looking for in free agency, not only because of his subpar season but also the impact the COVID-19 pandemic could have on the salary cap.

Here is the issue – the Leafs were only on the hook for half of Barrie’s $5.5 million cap hit. Even with a small decline in his production, a team could look to offer him at least $6 million as the starting point on the open market when you consider what other defencemen currently make.

Two recent contracts that come to mind when you think about making a comparison and they are Keith Yandle, who counts $6.35 million against the cap and Tyler Myers, who got $6 million per season for five years. You can make the case that Barrie would be worth more than what Myers got but maybe as a ceiling, it’s tough to see him getting close to $6.5 million.

When it comes to the Leafs, they might have set an internal cap for Barrie based on the extension they gave Jake Muzzin, which is $5.62 million per season over the next four years. Anything more than that, it’s tough to see the Leafs being able to make it work.

An obvious question mark is whether the team has an internal replacement like Timothy Liljegren that can step in, which might be asking a lot. Unless the team intends on trading for a top-four defenceman or looking an alternative to Barrie, he might be one of the harder pending free agents to replace.

Unless he is willing to come back at a reasonable cap hit, it’s tough to see Barrie being able to return.