The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired the right-handed top-four defenseman they’ve been seeking for years, but they have given up a big piece of their center depth and one of the best contracts on the team to do it. Nazem Kadri has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot, with Calle Rosen and a draft-pick swap also in the mix:

Barrie — who Colorado retained on, keeping 50% of his $5.5 million cap hit for the upcoming season— is an elite puck-moving defenseman and power-play quarterback (third in the NHL in power play points among defensemen in the last two years) who can breeze his way to 50-60 points on a team as talented as the Leafs. Alex Kerfoot will need a contract (currently an RFA) but is a quality if undersized middle-six forward with good speed and a good motor who can play both center and the wing.

From a needs and roster balance perspective, this deal makes a lot of sense. The Leafs were facing down the prospect of Cody Ceci on their top-pair on the right side if they didn’t address this area of the depth chart in a big way — that alone would’ve torpedoed any Cup aspirations they might’ve had this season. This shoe had to drop, and it is a big one.

The Leafs’ defense is in an interesting situation now with no one but Morgan Rielly nailed down contractually past the season, but it is a mobile group of puck movers, to be sure. One imagines moving Ceci is still a possibility, but with Barrie added, he might be able to slot in more appropriately in a second/third-pair capacity for this season.

What Barrie is not is big or a defensively-sound shutdown defenseman, but he’s a high, high-end puck mover and puck rusher who plays his defense with the puck on his stick. The question mark is what happens after this season and whether the Leafs gave up a fantastic middle-six centerman on a fantastic contract for three more years in Kadri for one-year of Barrie. Knowing that, they simply had to get some asset-controlled scoring depth back and got it in Kerfoot, who is a capable player over 200 feet and could play center for the Leafs, albeit not in the matchup role Kadri can play.

The Leafs will have to sort out if it’s William Nylander, Jason Spezza or Kerfoot that will occupy that 3C scoring role, but those are all skilled options. With Tavares and Matthews in the mix, it was unlikely Kadri was going to play as important of a role as he did for years in Toronto — that is, the matchup assignment he relishes — because there just weren’t enough minutes to go around among their center group. As such, the Leafs are likely going to build more of a sheltered scoring line with their third unit as opposed to a diluted checking line.

What they have lost with Kadri gone — and to a lesser extent Zaitsev and Hainsey — is some of the only remaining jam on the roster and a player in Kadri who wanted to win a Cup in Toronto as much as anyone on the team, but Kyle Dubas is doing this his way. That much is now clear. The making of the team in Dubas’ image, from the draft class to the FA signings to this trade, is now clear for all to see: After a Cup Final between the Blues and Bruins that had much of the hockey world championing heavy hockey again, this is a Leafs team doubling down on speed and skill and puck-moving ability on the backend.

Tyson Barrie Statistics

2004-05-01Juan de Fuca Grizzlies Bantam BBantam-----|
2006-07-01Juan de Fuca Grizzlies Midget BMidget724387130-|
Kelowna RocketsWHL70332-3|
Victoria GrizzliesBCHL00000|Playoffs30220
2007-08-01Kelowna RocketsWHL6493443328|Playoffs71340-1
Canada Pacific U17WHC-1761232|
2008-09-01Kelowna RocketsWHL681240523117|Playoffs22414181210
2009-10-01Kelowna Rockets “A”WHL631953723111|Playoffs1238116-2
2010-11-01Kelowna Rockets “C”WHL54114758344|Playoffs10291180
Canada U20WJC-20712306|
2011-12-01Colorado AvalancheNHL100000-2|
Lake Erie MonstersAHL495273224-1|
2012-13Colorado AvalancheNHL322111310-11|
Lake Erie MonstersAHL387222972|
2013-14Colorado AvalancheNHL641325382017|Playoffs302203
Lake Erie MonstersAHL603301|
2014-15Colorado AvalancheNHL80124153265|
2015-16Colorado AvalancheNHL7813364931-16|
2016-17Colorado AvalancheNHL747313818-34|
2017-18Colorado AvalancheNHL6814435722-15|Playoffs60442-3
2018-19Colorado AvalancheNHL7814455936-3|Playoffs1217841
2019-20Toronto Maple LeafsNHL-----|

Alex Kerfoot Statistics

2009-10-01Vancouver NW GiantsBCMML26714214|
2010-11-01Vancouver NW GiantsBCMML38367210858|Playoffs566126
Coquitlam ExpressBCHL50000|Playoffs10000
2011-12-01Coquitlam ExpressBCHL5125446924|Playoffs64046
2012-13Coquitlam ExpressBCHL168111916|
2013-14Harvard Univ.NCAA25861480|
2014-15Harvard Univ.NCAA27822301216|
2015-16Harvard Univ.NCAA33430341611|
2016-17Harvard Univ. “C”NCAA361629451820|
2017-18Colorado AvalancheNHL7919244328-7|Playoffs62022-1
2018-19Colorado AvalancheNHL7815274238-9|Playoffs120336-1