Leafs sign Russian forward Alexander Barabanov to one-year, entry-level contract

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs signed forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year, entry-level contract for the 2020-21 campaign Tuesday.

The 25-year-old had 11 goals and 20 points in 43 games with SKA St. Petersburg of Russia's Kontinental Hockey League this season. He added three points (one goal, two assists) in four playoff games for his hometown club.

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"We're really excited that another player to the fold here that we think has got great experience and a great skill set, very high character," Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe said on a conference call Tuesday. "Just checks a lot of the boxes that you're always looking for when you're adding a player that you fully expected to step in and be an important part of your team."

Barabanov has appeared in 262 career KHL games, all with SKA, registering 137 points (62 goals, 75 assists). In 68 career playoff games, Barabanov recorded 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) while helping SKA win the KHL's Gagarin Cup in both 2015 and 2017.

Internationally, Barabanov was a member of a team of Russian athletes — the country was banned from playing under its flag because of doping violations — that won gold at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He has also represented Russia three times at the world championships, recording 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 28 contests.

"He's very strong winger, tremendous play-making ability, great skill level in tight," Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas said of Barabanov on a separate conference call with reporters last week. "One of the other things that we like most about him is his ability to make plays under pressure, and his ability to win pucks (and) protect pucks when people come after him.

"He's a play-making winger that also has the ability to finish at the net."

The move for Barbanov comes 11 months after the Leafs rolled the dice on another Russian forward, signing Ilya Mikheyev to a one-year, entry-level contract on May 6, 2019.

The 25-year-old registered eight goals and 23 points in 39 games with Toronto this season — which has been put on indefinite hold by the COVID-19 pandemic — before suffering a scary wrist laceration from an opponent's skate on Dec. 27 that was expected to keep him out of the lineup until at least late March.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 7, 2020.

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