Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Russian Star, Making Johnson, Kapanen Expendable

Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs eyeing KHLer Alexander Barabanov (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images) /

The NHL has been on hold for a while now, but the Toronto Maple Leafs have been busy.

Last week, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed several AHL players, and were rumoured to be among the finalists for big name Russian Free Agent Alexander Barabanov.

Today, they signed him, in competition with (apparently) over 20 other teams.

The Leafs are hoping to hit another homerun with a Russian Free Agent.

Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Barabanov

Like last year when the Leafs signed Ilya Mikheyev, Barabanov is a solid KHL player in the prime of his career who can step into an NHL lineup and provide (it is hoped) amazing value on an entry-level deal.

The Toronto Maple Leafs have committed to a studs and duds approach to the salary cap.  This means that they follow the math and put the majority of their money into star players.

The reason this works is because it’s fairly easy to fill out the rest of your roster with high quality cheap players – if you know what to look for, and the Leafs believe they do.

Barabanov should be able to step into the Leafs lineup next year on the third or fourth line.   He should easily be better than your average third liner, while making under a million dollars per year.

Essentially, he is valuable because he carries no risk (it’s a one year deal) and is almost guaranteed to out-perform his contract.

The Leafs will have to give Ilya Mikheyev a raise, but it will likely be a short term deal that is fairly cheap.  I highly doubt it’s anything close to the $3 + Johnsson and Kapanen make.

Both Johnsson and Kapanen are on pretty team-friendly deals, making them valuable trade pieces.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have a ton of cheap talent in which to build their bottom-six next season.

Assuming Mikheyev and Hyman are playing left wing on the top six, the bottom six features Barabanov, and Engvall for sure.  Then Nic Petan, Yegor Korshkov and Kenny Agostino are also possibilities. (They are all currently signed).

Additionally, there is a good chance the Leafs can re-sign Kyle Clifford, Jason Spezza, Freddie Gauthier, Denis Malgin, Adam Brooks, Pontus Aberg or Garrett Wilson.

Both Nick Robertson and Mikhail Abramov could potentially make the team.

With 12 above average 4th line options, the Leafs hardly need Kapanen and Johnsson at their price points, and their solid trade value will assure they are moved, with an eye towards finding one elite blue-liner they can acquire and afford.

dark. Next. The Leafs Will Trade Kapanen

Unless that defenseman is a UFA, in which case they can just restock their cupboards with picks and prospects so that they can continue the cycle of using cheap players to offset the cost of having a star studded team.

This is another fantastic move for the Toronto Maple Leafs.