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Barrie seeks 'right fit,' does not address possible return to Maple Leafs

Veteran defenseman can become unrestricted free agent after season

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

Barrie's snipe finds the twine

TOR@DAL: Barrie's shot deflects into the net

Tyson Barrie collects the loose puck and fires a shot that deflects into the net, increasing the Maple Leafs' lead to 3-1

  • 00:40 •

Tyson Barrie said he will be looking for "the right fit" if he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman, who is in the final season of a four-year contract, did not address the possibility of a return to Toronto during a conference call Wednesday. He was acquired in a trade that sent center Nazem Kadri to the Colorado Avalanche on July 1. 

"It has to be a spot where they obviously are in need of someone like myself and are a good organization that is headed in the right direction," the 28-year-old said "I think there's a lot of organizations that tick those boxes so it'll be a process where you sit down and just go through everything and what's important to me."

Barrie said the uncertainty of the times has made it difficult to look too far ahead. The NHL season was paused March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

"It's a weird time to be heading into free agency, that's for sure, with everything going on," he said. "… It's an odd time. All I've got to do right now is get ready to play if we are going to play and to take a run with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the playoffs. That's why they brought me in and that would be pretty spectacular so hopefully we get a chance to do that."

Barrie said the Maple Leafs (36-25-9, third in the Atlantic Division) have had a roller-coaster season, but he was encouraged by their play prior to the pause, much like he was about his own. He pointed to the coaching change from Mike Babcock to Sheldon Keefe on Nov. 20 as being a key to the turnaround for him and for the team.

Video: Season Snapshot: Toronto Maple Leafs

One of Keefe's top priorities was urging Barrie to embrace his offensive skills and regain his confidence with the puck. Toronto was 9-10-4 when Keefe took over, and no one had struggled more than Barrie, who had yet to score his first goal with the Maple Leafs.

Barrie responded by scoring in the first period of Keefe's first game as coach, a 3-1 victory against the Arizona Coyotes on Nov. 21. Thirty-two of his 39 points (five goals, 34 assists) have come since the coaching change.

The second-half surge is more indicative of Barrie's career -- he has 346 points (80 goals, 266 assists) in 554 games. Skilled offensive defensemen are a coveted commodity on the open market, so it will be interesting to see how much in demand he would be should he test it.

Barrie said the experience of being traded has given him a better appreciation of what it's like to change hockey homes. He played his first eight seasons with the Avalanche, scoring 307 points (74 goals, 232 assists) in 484 games.

"I'm not sure I ever gave enough credit to guys who get traded and have to kind of change their whole lives and move and come into a new team and fit in right away," Barrie said. "I think it's a little tougher than I gave credit for. I'm glad I had the chance to go through that first-hand."

After going through growing pains, he's found his comfort zone in Toronto and said he's optimistic about the Maple Leafs chances.

"I think we have as good a chance as anybody," he said. "The skill on our team and we're a fairly young team, so if anyone can come out of this thing ready to rock, it's going to be us."

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