The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year deal on an entry-level contract, the team announced Tuesday.
The 25-year-old was a KHL star, skating for SKA St. Petersburg before venturing over to the National Hockey League. In 43 games this season, he managed 20 points – including 11 goals. In the KHL post-season, he was on his way with three points in four games before the plug was pulled due to COVID-19.
“We’re really excited to add another player to the fold here that we thinks got great experience and a great skillset; very high character as well,” said Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe. “He just checks a lot of the boxes that you’re always looking for when you’re adding a player that you fully expect to step in and be an important part of your team.”
Barabanov won Olympic gold with the Russians in 2018 and was a free agent target for the Maple Leafs several months ago. With the team’s well-documented cap constraints, the forward provides the flexibility and cost-efficiency required to take the next step.
At 5’9, 192 pounds, Barabanov will never be the biggest dog in the fight – but he does boast an impressive skillset and the price is right for the Leafs. He should be lineup-ready next year and has a cap hit of $925,000, which is not only manageable but desirable. Toronto already has some $40 million tied up in its top four.
“He’s not tall, but he’s a very strong winger,” general manager Kyle Dubas said of the new guy. “Tremendous playmaking ability, great skill level in tight. But I think that one of the other things we like most about him is his ability to make plays under pressure and his ability to win pucks, protect pucks, when people come after him and use his strength to be able to do that.”
It’s possible Barabanov is a bottom-six dude to start with, but the price is right for that kind of investment. If he pans out and challenges for a second line gig, so much the better. But if things don’t pan out, Dubas’ risk is minimal and the business end of things intact.
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