Maple Leafs sign Alexander Barabanov

  

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Russian forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year, entry-level contract worth $925,000 on Tuesday morning. This is following weeks of speculation as to where the forward would sign, as it was reported that there was interest from many NHL teams. 

Barabanov spent the 2019–20 season (prior to the cancellation) with SKA St. Petersburg of the Kontinential Hockey League (KHL). 

He also participated in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which is where teams first began to notice him.

Toronto General Manager Kyle Dubas spoke about the team’s interest in Barabanov during a media call last week.

“He’s a winger, he’s strong, he’s not tall but a very strong player,” Dubas said in the media call. “(He has) great playmaking ability (and is) very good in tight.”

Dubas also pointed to the player’s ability to make plays under pressure and his ability to produce in the net-front area as additional reasons why the Leafs were interested. 

This signing has caused some controversy. As Sean Tierney pointed out, Barabanov’s point totals in 2019–20 (20 points through 43 games) would translate to approximately 28 points over a full NHL season. For context, in his last KHL season prior to joining the Leafs, Ilya Mikheyev scored at a pace of approximately 44 points.

However, in 2018–19, Barabanov played a career-high 58 games and notched 46 points, which would translate to about 49 NHL points. As well, it is important to remember that Barabanov was signed as a cheap, skilled option to round out Toronto’s bottom six. 

In recent years, the Maple Leafs have been successful at signing KHL free agents to cheap entry-level deals. Although there have been some misses (remember Igor Ozhiganov?), there have also been triumphs, most recently with Mikheyev. In 39 games prior to his injury (Dec. 27 versus the New Jersey Devils), Mikheyev notched eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points. Interestingly, both Barabanov and Mikheyev have the same agent, Dan Milstein.

Despite the difficulties in making the right decision when signing these players (with the different ice size, different pace and style of play, different quality of competition, etc.), it will continue to become more important for teams to pursue these free agents. Indeed, heading into what should be the beginning of playoffs but is instead the middle of week four with the season on pause, there is uncertainty surrounding next year’s salary cap—especially for the Maple Leafs, who have a large portion of the current salary cap being filled by the top six. Cheaper bottom-six options are essential.

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    Cristina Caruso
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    The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Russian forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year, entry-level contract worth $925,000 on Tuesday morning. This is foll[To continue reading full article, click here: Maple Leafs sign Alexander Barabanov]

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