The Toronto Maple Leafs have won a battle with several other teams, including the Arizona Coyotes, for the right to sign Russian forward Alexander Barabanov. The team announced a one-year entry-level contract for the KHL star, one which kicks in for the 2020-21 season.
The 25-year old Barabanov has been on NHL radars for quite some time, given his history of success in the KHL and on the international stage. A medalist with Russia at the World Juniors, World Championship and Olympics, he also has taken home two Gagarin Cup titles and has 137 points in 262 career KHL games.
Though his numbers dropped off this season, Barabanov will now get the chance to show he can compete at the NHL level with the Maple Leafs, who have a recent history of bringing over prized Russian free agents. Nikita Zaitsev, Igor Ozhiganov and Ilya Mikheyev have all played for the team the last few seasons—to different levels of success—though many believed that former GM Lou Lamoriello and former head coach Mike Babcock had a lot to do with the recruiting process in those cases.
It seems as though current GM Kyle Dubas still has the ear of some important representatives, which perhaps has something to do with the way he recently dealt with Mikheyev’s injury. After Dubas remained in New Jersey with the injured forward as he recovered, agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey—who also represents Barabanov—said that he had made sure that all of the other KHL free agents were aware of how Toronto dealt with the situation.
In any case, the Maple Leafs have landed another cheap forward to add to their expensive group for next season, giving them options on how to construct a lineup.