The proverbial crap is hitting the fan in Pittsburgh tonight as the Toronto Maple Leafs trail 6-1 to the Penguins in the third period, with the team winding its way towards its fifth straight loss (9-9-4 record).
The Headlines segment in the second intermission of the HNIC broadcast touched on the likelihood of a coaching change and the possibility that Tyson Barrie’s Leaf career could be shortlived if fortunes don’t turn around soon for the struggling pending-UFA defenseman.
Elliotte Friedman on the possibility of a coaching change:
If they don’t make a miraculous comeback in the third period… They’re supposed to fly to Vegas tonight. All bets are off. Anything could happen here, I think.
The one thing I would say is that up until recently, I think they really didn’t want to do it. I think they wanted the group to grind through it together to see if they can find it together. I think they wanted to send a message they were backing the coach and the group especially since a bunch of guys were hurt and out. Now, this season could slide, and I think all options could be on the table.
Babcock takes a lot of the heat right now — rightly or wrongly. If he does get let go, the heat is going to come in a lot of other directions, and I think there are people there who recognize that.
Chris Johnston on the state of the Leafs at the moment:
They’re really worried about the process more than just the losses. When you see how many times they’ve gone down earlier in games this season and the way things have gone, everything has to be considered. There is a lot riding on this season for the entire Leafs organization.
One thing I’ll say is that being around them on Friday after that loss too Boston — in the dressing room, they were just shellshocked after that game last night. I can’t imagine the mood has improved with what is going on in Pittsburgh.
Johnston on the Leafs‘ potential interest in Tristan Jarry as a backup option:
The Leafs aren’t currently in the market for a backup goaltender. They want to see what they can get in more than just the one start for Kasimir Kaskisuo. Should that change at some point, I think a guy to keep a mind on is Tristan Jarry in the Penguins net right now. Pittsburgh is in a unique position with two really good goaltenders behind Matt Murray — that is Jarry and Casey DeSmith, who is is currently in the AHL — and I do believe they would be willing to move one of these guys if the right offer came along. What makes Jarry so appealing at this point is that he is just 24 and has had a great start to this season and he only counts for $675k against the cap, which would obviously have appeal for a team like Toronto in a cap bind.
Elliotte Friedman on the possibility the Leafs look for a new home for Tyson Barrie:
There has been a lot of chatter around him. He has not asked for a trade. However, I think there is an understanding that it so far hasn’t worked, that it is a very important year for him because he is a free agent. I think we all recognize how he would feel about that. I am hearing that Toronto has received calls on him and so far they have rejected the idea. They don’t want to trade him, but there is interest. Because Colorado is retaining half his salary, he is at $2.75 million. We will see where it goes over the next month, but I do think there is a recognition this can’t continue for him.
In Colorado, Nazem Kadri has posted 14 points in 18 games, while Alex Kerfoot is now on the shelf long-term due to injury. It’s hard to script a worse start to the year as far as Kyle Dubas’ big offseason trade is concerned.
Barrie just hasn’t been able to gain any footing whatsoever on his new team without top-unit power-play opportunity, and the point about it being a contract year — millions are shaving off of his contract by the game right now — certainly adds an understandable level of urgency to it for the player and his agent. A five-time 10+ goal scorer and three-time 50+ point scorer over his eight-year career, Barrie has zero goals and just five points in 21 games, with four of those points coming in the first three games of the season.
The difficulty from the Leafs’ perspective is that they can’t easily replace him on the right side of their defense with only $2.75 million in cap space (Barrie’s cap hit, with half retained by Colorado) opening up in the event of a trade. The Leafs’ current cap maneuverability is only temporary with Mitch Marner placed on LTIR.
Finding a way to get Barrie feeling more confident about his game has to remain the plan here, and that may mean handing him a run of (arguably undeserved on the balance of his play) PP1 time over Morgan Rielly, who hasn’t exactly had a great start to the year himself, points aside.