Leafs sign KHL star Barabanov to 1-year deal

NHL

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed coveted forward Alexander Barabanov to a one-year, entry-level contract, the team announced on Tuesday.

Barabanov, 25, was a star in the Kontinental Hockey League, playing for SKA St. Petersburg. He had 11 goals and 20 points this season, in 43 games, and had three points in four playoff games before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A native of Saint Petersburg, Russia, Barabanov, a 5-foot-10, 192-pound winger, had 62 goals and 137 points in 262 KHL games, and helped lead his club to the KHL’s championship, the Garagin Cup, in 2015 and 2017.

“We’re really excited to add another player to the fold here that we think has got great experience and great skill set, very high character as well,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said Tuesday on a conference call. “[Barabanov] checks a lot of the boxes you look for when you’re looking to add a player that you fully expect can step in and be an important part of your team.”

Barabanov was on Team Russia as it won the gold medal at the 2018 Olympics. He also played for Russia three times at the World Championships, where he had four goals and 14 points in 28 games.

“He’s played a lot both with NHL players and against NHL players in international competition,” Keefe said. “I’ve watched him play in some of those games against some of those teams with a heavy NHL presence, such as Canada. He’s succeeded there and I think that helps his confidence coming in.”

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