The Toronto Maple Leafs are exploring options in the free agency market as a way to flesh out their team. One player who has caught a lot of attention recently, and that is Ivan Barbashev. He rocketed to the front of several free-agent boards because he had a stellar playoff performance with the Vegas Golden Knights when he registered 18 points (seven goals and 11 assists) in 22 postseason games as his new team won the Stanley Cup.
Sure the Maple Leafs Would Want Him, But So to Lots of Other Teams
There is no doubt that the Maple Leafs (as many other teams have done) have noticed Barbashev. And that’s the reason he would pose a significant risk for the Maple Leafs. In the episode of The Hockey Writers Maple Leafs Lounge shown below, Maple Leafs’ writers Peter Baracchini and Jim Parsons discuss the potential pros and cons of adding Barbashev to the roster.
Why Barbashev Probably Won’t Be Picked Up by the Maple Leafs
First, the fact is that Barbashev is a good player. He might even be a good fit for the Maple Leafs in free agency. But he’s probably too pricey for the team to pursue. During the video above, Parsons outlined the following reasons.
Reason One: Barbashev Would Likely Be an Overpayment
Barbashev’s strong playoff performance has increased his market value. He can contribute on the first or second line because he produces points and also adds a physical presence. Some projections even suggest that Barbashev could double or triple his current value – perhaps as high as $6 million per season.
Therein lies the risk. In a bidding war, which the Maple Leafs can’t afford, Barbashov’s contract numbers will probably go sky-high. Barbashev is likely seeking a long-term contract. Because he’s already 27 years old, committing to any kind of a lengthy contract would be problematic, especially considering the potential decline in production in the later years. There’s a good chance someone will overpay. It just shouldn’t be the Maple Leafs.
Reason Two: Potential Mistake of Signing a Player Without a Strong History
Yes, Barbashev has an impressive skill set. But, there is also a potential downside. If he is overpaid on a long contract, a team could likely eat the money. Is he actually as good as the contract would suggest? There’s the question. He doesn’t have that long a history of success.
Barbashev had a 60-point season with the St. Louis Blues in 2021-22 and a 45-point season between the Blues and the Golden Knights last season. But before that, he never had a season as high as 30 points. Would he become the most overpaid free agent of the summer? Will a bidding war push his salary over the top and be more than his commensurate worth on the ice?
That’s the issue.
The Bottom Line
Given the current priorities of the Maple Leafs, it is probably wise not to invest energy in trying to sign Barbashev, considering the potential for financial instability and his short track record of success. He is probably a talented player who could bring value to the team. But, the risks of signing him in free agency outweigh the potential benefits.
Barbashev is too much of a gamble.