The Colorado Avalanche has one of the NHL’s strongest systems when it comes to defence, but every team can use a spare veteran. Mark Barberio could be exactly what the team needs to help mentor prospects and substitute when someone is hurt or tired. The 30-year-old isn’t an exciting player but there are aspects of his game well-suited to what Colorado needs moving forward.
Avalanche Should Hang On to Mark Barberio
The Tampa Bay Lightning originally drafted Barberio in the sixth-round of the 2008 Draft. The 6’1″, 200-pound defender played for Tampa for several years before he signed with the Montreal Canadiens in 2015. Colorado then claimed Barberio off waivers in February 2017. He has played in 113 games as an Avalanche with six goals and 25 points. Barberio’s best season came in 2016-17 when he scored three goals and 13 points in 60 games.
Barberio hasn’t been a major factor in 2019-20. He has only two assists in 21 games while averaging a career-worst 14:06 of ice time per game. His physical stats aren’t impressive either. Barberio has just 13 hits and 19 blocks. Fans might wonder why Colorado should re-sign a 30-year-old defender who contributes very little on the ice in the most visible categories. That is because Barberio’s contributions are more visible in the advanced stats.
What Makes Barberio An Ideal Extra Defender
Barberio has been consistently average when it comes to puck possession. His 49.0 Corsi For and -1.1 Corsi For Relative as an Av isn’t good but he has career figures of 51.3 and +.9. Additionally, much of his negative value comes at even strength. He has a positive Corsi For Relative of 1.4 when the team is short-handed. That is fifth among all Colorado defencemen but third among defenders who average at least a minute of short-handed time per game. Only Nikita Zadorov and Ian Cole have better figures when the team is down a player.
Barberio is also a cheap option. He is an unrestricted free agent after 2019-20 but he shouldn’t cost much more than his current cap hit of $1.45 million. He is a more cost-effective option than Zadorov’s cap hit of $3.2 million. Barberio is not capable of supporting an offensive rush or checking like Zadorov but he can play short-handed almost as well and is far cheaper.
How Colorado Could Use Barberio after 2019-20
The Avalanche have a strong blueline going into 2020-21. Erik Johnson and Cole are veterans capable of handling defensive responsibilities. Cale Makar and Samuel Girard are the team’s two young defenders with high offensive ceilings. Top prospect Bowen Byram should be in the NHL next year as well. That leaves one regular spot open on the blue line. It could go to Zadorov but his defensive lapses have frustrated the team this year. He could end up as a valuable trade chip. Ryan Graves has also taken over as a quality physical defender with a major leap forward this season. Conor Timmins is yet another option as a good two-way defender.
That is a very good group of defenders but it’s also very young. Barberio would be an experienced option that can substitute when someone needs a rest or struggles. The youngest defenders like Byram and Timmins haven’t played full NHL seasons yet so giving them an occasional break could ensure they don’t wear down during an 82-game grind. Barberio is a fine option next to a physical presence like Graves on the penalty kill.
What will Colorado do with Mark Barberio
Colorado is unlikely to keep Barberio despite some of the skills he brings to the team. His new contract won’t be expensive but they have even cheaper options in the AHL. The Avalanche could promote Anton Lindholm or Jacob MacDonald to fill the role of the seventh defenceman. The team doesn’t need much from an extra defender to satisfy 15-20 games worth of production. Any money they do save with Barberio’s free agency could go towards a premium free agent like Alex Pietrangelo or Taylor Hall. Barberio brings some value but Colorado has plenty of talent and depth already.