The Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly interested in Alexander Barabanov of the KHL.
Barabanov has been a hot topic on social media, here’s what you need to know about him.
Alexander Barabanov is listed as 5’10 and 87kg. The winger is a skill-oriented player, and has been labelled as a “human highlight reel”. Apparently, he can also take PK minutes. He’s set to turn 26 in June.
Barabanov is best known for one thing. His skating. He’s been described as a top-5 skater in the KHL by Igor Eronko.
He’s been solid in the KHL throughout his career but absolutely went off in 2018-19. He scored 46 points in 58 games to finish 17th in scoring league-wide. He finished second on SKA St. Petersburg, only behind league leader Nikita Gusev. This season, however, he had 20 points in 43 games, his lowest total since his first full KHL season. Barabanov was a victim of injury, suffering a hand injury mid-season. Hopefully, he’s able to turn it around.
Overall, Barabanov is a player who will fit in very well on the Leafs 3rd line. His skill, speed, creativity, and versatility make him a perfect candidate to succeed in the Leafs style of play.
There are three key concerns with Alexander Barabanov.
The biggest? His down season. His surprisingly low offensive season raises a few questions. At 25, he should be near his prime, so what caused it? One answer could be injury, but that doesn’t explain why he underperformed before. I think it’s important to note that of SKA’s top 5 scorers last season, only Barabanov and Sergei Plotnikov remained this season. How much were Barabanov’s numbers boosted by the likes of Nikita Gusev and Pavel Datsyuk?
Another is his contract. At 25, Barabanov is already too old for an ELC. Last season, Nikita Gusev commanded a $4.5 million cap hit. Although I don’t think Barabanov will get nearly as much, the Leafs don’t really have an abundance of cap space. Especially with the new cap hit for 2020-21 in the air, how much the Leafs are willing to spend is still unknown.
The most minimal concern is how he’ll pan out. It’s a risk any team takes when signing European free agents. The Leafs hit on Ilya Mikheyev, but they have some notable misses (Nikita Zaitsev, I guess I’d put Igor Ozhiganov in there as well?).
The Leafs notably have quite a bit of competition for Barabanov. Per Igor Eronko, Barabanov is choosing between three teams, one of which is confirmed to be the Arizona Coyotes. The Leafs were rumoured to have signed him by Russian media, although it has not been confirmed. The Coyotes are also up against the cap but have numerous contracts coming off this offseason. Barabanov’s contract expires on April 30th, so any signing will be made official after that.
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