A couple of Island defencemen made moves this week during the NHL free-agent signing period. Tyson Barrie is headed across the Rockies to the Alberta capital and Matt Irwin to within the spray envelope of Niagara Falls with the Buffalo Sabres.
Langford’s Barrie may just be the missing piece to the puzzle that is the Edmonton Oilers — the sort of dynamic, puck-moving blueliner the Oilers need to feed service-starved star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The 29-year-old Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association product is leaving the Toronto Maple Leafs and was inked to a one-season, $3.75-million deal Saturday by Edmonton. Frank Seravalli of TSN reported Barrie could have signed for $6 million elsewhere.
“Money was not the biggest issue,” said Barrie, who is back training on the Island in the pandemic-tilted off-season.
It isn’t every day you receive an offer to play with the game’s current greatest player in McDavid and the first German to win the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP and Art Ross as leading scorer in Draisaitl.
“I have made a lot of money in this game. There comes a time to bet you yourself and take the best opportunity [on the ice],” said Barrie.
“This is a great fit. It was a no-brainer.”
Barrie will provide the kind of back-end mobility, and power-play quarterback, the Oilers have lacked. There are even some forwards who would envy the 80 goals, 266 assists and 346 points Barrie has amassed in 554 NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Maple Leafs.
Brentwood Bay’s Irwin, meanwhile, will provide a veteran presence, with a one-year $700,000 deal, on an emerging and youthful Sabres blueline, which includes star Rasmus Dahlin.
“I didn’t make the NHL until I was 25 years old. I am impressed by how [Dahlin] has made an impact so young,” said Irwin, of the 20-year-old Swedish prodigy, the 2018 No. 1 NHL draft pick, who will be entering his third season with Buffalo.
“He is one of the most skilled defencemen in the league, despite being so young. I am excited to be going to such a young blueline group with such high-end skill,” added the 32-year-old Irwin, who is leaving the Anaheim Ducks.
The Peninsula Minor Hockey Association graduate and former Saanich Braves (now Predators) and Nanaimo Clippers junior has played 359 regular-season NHL games over eight seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins and Ducks, including 47 playoff games with the Sharks and Predators.
Most Island NHLers, including Barrie and Irwin, are now back home awaiting news of when the 2020-21 NHL season will begin.
“This whole thing has been crazy,” said Barrie.
“Playing in a bubble, followed by a free-agency period that has been more uncertain than usual, because of the [pandemic situation.”
At least Barrie got to play in the bubble as the Maple Leafs made the playoffs. The Ducks didn’t make the playoffs, so Irwin hasn’t played since the season was abruptly halted in March.
“The Sabres missed the playoffs, too, so we’re going to be equally champing at the bit,” said Irwin.