The St. Louis Blues have reached an agreement with Ivan Barbashev on a new two-year contract according to his agent Dan Milstein of Gold Star Hockey. Barbashev was a restricted free agent and eligible for salary arbitration this summer. Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet reports that the contract will carry an average annual value of $2.25MM. PuckPedia reports that Barbashev will earn $1.9MM in 2021-22 and $2.5MM in 2022-23.
Even with the recent additions of Brandon Saad and Pavel Buchnevich, there appears to be more playing time available in St. Louis this year for some of its young forwards. The team has bid farewell to Jaden Schwartz, Mike Hoffman and Sammy Blais, with trade rumors still swirling around Vladimir Tarasenko and Tyler Bozak still out there as an unrestricted free agent. Though it seems unlikely that Barbashev, a part-time center, would move into the top-six, he still should probably receive a bit more playing time than the 13 minutes he’s averaged to this point.
In 270 NHL games, Barbashev has scored just 89 points, but at least part of that is due to the defensive deployment that Craig Berube has always reserved for his line. The two-way forward has bought into the physical side of the game, and adds some positional flexibility by being able to line up in the middle or left wing. The fact that he spent more minutes playing with Kyle Clifford than any other player on the Blues last season suggests that there is room for offensive improvement if elevated in the lineup, but in his short stints with the more talented forwards he still hasn’t produced very much.
If there was a time for a breakout, it would be these two years, as Barbashev will actually be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this new contract. If he can set himself up as a reliable middle-six center, the number of interested teams would certainly be high.
For the Blues, deciding not to buy out any of Barbashev’s UFA years has kept the cap hit relatively low, and important move when the team still has Jordan Kyrou, Robert Thomas, and Zach Sanford to sign this summer. In fact, the team doesn’t have much room to operate with in those cases, unless of course, they move out a bigger contract like Tarasenko’s.