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Leafs looking to add another Russian to the fold?

March 28, 2020, 4:29 PM ET [130 Comments]
Mike Augello
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As mentioned in a column earlier this week, the cancellation of the Gagarin Cup Playoffs and a limited KHL salary cap for 2020-21 could lead to a number of KHL players exploring their options in North America for next season. One name mentioned as early as last October is SKA St. Petersburg winger Alexander Barabanov and according to sources out of Russia and TSN’s Darren Dreger, the 25-year-old will be interviewing with NHL clubs next week.

The 5’9” 190 lb. forward has played seven KHL seasons in his hometown of St. Petersburg and for Russia internationally at the 2014 IIHF World Junior and at the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, and piqued the interest of NHL clubs last season when he finished second in scoring behind New Jersey’s Nikita Gusev with 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) in 58 games.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported last fall that a few NHL executives were going to see Barabanov in person and that there were already rumors of interest from the Toronto Maple Leafs before Leafs GM Kyle Dubas headed to Russia on a scouting trip last December.

According to reporter Igor Eronko, Barabanov is one of the best skaters in the KHL, is very good in one-on-one battles in the corners and along the boards, and proved very elusive against NHL talent in the 2018 World Championships.

Barabanov’s offensive numbers dropped significantly last season (11 goals, 9 assists in 43 games), which may have been a result of decreased ice time because of the rumors he would be leaving for North America, but that reportedly has not cooled the interest in the winger, since more than 20 NHL teams have made inquiries.

The winger is represented by Daniel Milstein, who is also the agent for Ilya Mikheyev and former Leaf Nikita Zaitsev. Milstein has a good working relationship with the Leafs and complemented Dubas and the organization for the attentive treatment they showed when Mikheyev was injured in December. That may improve Toronto’s chances of wooing Russian imports to the Blue and White in the future.


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