Wherefore Art Thou, Barbashev?

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Zach Sanford figures to receive more ice time should Ivan Barbashev not return to the club.

Ivan Barbashev is the last bit of unfinished business for Doug Armstrong and the St. Louis Blues. He is the last restricted free agent to be unsigned.

The Blues had to wait for Joel Edmundon’s contract to be resolved before they could finalize their approach with Barbashev. And they don’t have much room to increase their offer to the Russian forward.

It’s somewhat surprising that the Blues tendered the qualifying offer to Joel Edmundson, given their terrific depth. But they did, and now he’s in the fold (for now). His slight raise to $3.1 million gives them not much room at all to sign Barbashev.

The Bleedin’ Blue blog speculated that the team may be better off without him. After all, he hasn’t developed into a top 6 forward as some thought he might. Rather, he’s become a dependable bottom 6 forward that plays well defensively and puts in the occasional goal. He’s the perfect 4th line forward, and he certainly deserves a raise from the roughly $850,000 he was making. And teammate Oskar Sundqvist received a raise of more than 3x what he was making. That had to make Barbashev think big in terms of his next contract. But the fact of the matter is, the Blues just aren’t in a position to give him a comparable contract. Hence the reports that he is considering his overseas options, i.e., the KHL.

Losing Barbashev is a win-lose scenario, but mostly lose. On the one hand, his departure would open up playing time and opportunities for Fabbri, Blais, MacEachern, Kyrou and others. The front office and coaching staff will want to see if Fabbri can regain his potential as a top 6 winger, no doubt, and also work in Kyrou as a piece for the future. But on the other hand, Barbashev is an anchor on the 4th line, and not having his steadying presence there would likely mean reduced ice time for that line.

So we’ll see how it all plays out. Perhaps in order to bring back Barbashev, somebody will be dealt to create cap space. Or Barbashev may decide it’s in his best interest to remain in the NHL and play for a large contract next offseason.

There assuredly will be more roster churn next summer than there was this year. And that bodes well for his changes at a bigger contract.

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