The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a right-shot defenceman. The Colorado Avalanche needed a second-line centre. So when the two teams came together on a blockbuster trade this summer, with Nazem Kadri and Tyson Barrie changing addresses, the general consensus was both teams got better.
The full trade saw the Maple Leafs acquire Barrie and centre Alexander Kerfoot from the Avalanche for Kadri and defenceman Calle Rosen. The Avalanche are also retaining 50 per cent of Barrie’s $5.5 million expiring contract.
“We were trying to find a trade partner where everyone could come out on the winning end of it,” Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said shortly after making the move. “Where a team could address their need for a top-end, proven centre and we could get a centre back, hopefully somebody younger that was a little cheaper that we could plug into our lineup and replace Naz – and then also the biggest need for us was of course on D.”
Nearly five months later, the two teams face off for the first time since the trade this Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada. So where do things stand now? Let’s look back on the trade, and how each piece involved in it is doing so far this season.
TORONTO’S SIDE OF THE DEAL
Barrie was supposed to solve the biggest need facing the Maple Leafs. As a right-shot, offensive defenceman, his acquisition solidified the team’s top four and gave Morgan Rielly a complementary weapon on the power play.
Now a quarter of the way through the season, things have not gone according to plan. Yet.
New head coach Sheldon Keefe may be the key to turning Barrie’s season around. The 28-year-old scored his first goal (and eighth point) of the season in Keefe’s debut against the Arizona Coyotes and enters the Avalanche game on a three-game point streak.
Keefe made two changes involving Barrie in his first game behind the bench. The first change was that the coach showed he could be flexible with his defence pairings. Barrie played alongside Travis Dermott for most of the game, after spending almost all season with Jake Muzzin. But Keefe also had Barrie take shifts next to Rielly, Muzzin and Justin Holl.
The second change was moving Barrie up to the first power play unit. This actually wasn’t seen Thursday because the Coyotes didn’t take any penalties, but the change was made in the pre-game skate. Under Babcock, Barrie’s ice time on the power play had been cut by nearly 50 per cent from last season.
After Keefe’s debut, it was clear Barrie was excited for the opportunities his new coach is giving him.
“(Keefe) came in with a really fresh attitude and we all know that we haven’t met expectations and it wasn’t good enough and we needed to be better,” Barrie said. “We kind of felt excited. It was almost like a fresh start. He was really positive and made a couple changes that I think helped us big time.”
Barrie’s still only on pace for 27 points on the season, but considering he nearly hit 60 in his final two seasons in Colorado, there’s a good chance a hot streak is coming. Especially if Keefe is going to put him in a position to succeed.
Kerfoot has served as mostly a third line centre with Toronto, although he did briefly get a promotion to the second line when captain John Tavares was injured.
The 25-year-old has five goals and eight points in his 21 games so far this season and missed three games after having dental surgery earlier this month.
However, when he returned to the lineup in the Coyotes game, it was as a winger. Keefe slotted Kerfoot on the left side of a third line that also featured Jason Spezza and Kasperi Kapanen.
Kerfoot has struggled in the face off dot this season, winning only 47 per cent of his draws, which is why a move to the wing may have been needed. But once the injured Mitchell Marner and Trevor Moore return, Kerfoot could be moved all over the lineup.
COLORADO’S SIDE OF THE DEAL
In Toronto, Kadri was a third line centre but he’s been moved into the top six with the Avalanche. The 29-year-old has seven goals and 15 points in 22 games this season, is being used in all situations and had a five-game point streak snapped on Nov. 19.
Kadri has been especially effective on faceoffs. His 55.6 face off percentage is tied for eighth best among centres with at least 300 draws and matches the career-high number he posted last season with the Maple Leafs.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar originally had Kadri playing with two fellow newcomers in wingers Joonas Donskoi and Andre Burakovsky. The trio have all been good this season and sit third, fourth and fifth in team scoring entering the Leafs game.
But that line has been broken up in recent weeks due to injuries to Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.
Lately, Kadri’s had a revolving door of wingers on his line, including J.T. Compher, Tyson Jost and Valeri Nichushkin. On the power play, Kadri plays in the slot like he did in Toronto.
One area Kadri has struggled in with the Avalanche has been his discipline, something he was criticized for at the end of his time with the Leafs. So far this season, Kadri has 34 penalty minutes, including two fights, while he only had 43 penalty minutes and only one fight in 73 games last year.
The Avalanche enter Saturday’s game second in the Central Division, despite two thirds of their top line out with injuries. While Nathan MacKinnon has been the star of the show, the Avalanche have a strong group that’s been boosted by the addition of Kadri.
“It’s awesome. I love it,” Kadri said told The Athletic recently. “It’s honestly just a breath of fresh air not having to walk outside and feel like everybody is watching you being under the microscope, so it’s definitely a little more relaxing.”
The only player in the trade that hasn’t appeared in the NHL this season, Rosen is currently playing for the AHL’s Colorado Eagles.
The 25-year-old was limited to only three games in October due to an upper-body injury. He does have one goal and eight points in 11 games this season, but is also a minus-six.
The Avalanche are very deep on the back end and so far Kevin Connauton and Conor Timmins have been the defencemen who have shuttled back and forth between the AHL and NHL.
It’s too early to know what kind of role Rosen will play with Avalanche, but so far he’s off to a decent start in the AHL.