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Alexander Barabanov 2023 player review: Great player, great trade bait

Wrapping up our individual player reviews is Alexander Barabanov. The Sharks had a lot of substandard players this season, but the 28-year-old left wing was not one of them.

Barabanov’s 2022-23 performance

This season, Barabanov served well as a second line forward.  

Games Played G A P PIM +/- SOG Shooting %
68 15 32 47 20 -30 120 12.5%

Barabanov played 68 games this season. It was his second full season with the Sharks (last season, he played 70 games), and it was his best season to date. The forward’s 47 points bettered last season’s total of 39.

As with most of the players we’ve reviewed this season, we’re ignoring Barabanov’s plus/minus stat. Minus-30 was near the bottom of the league, but several other Sharks players were right there with him. The NHL’s bottom 50 in plus/minus included Erik Karlsson, Logan Couture, Mario Ferraro and Tomas Hertl.

Barabanov’s linemates

Barabanov spent most of the season on a line centered by Logan Couture. He was firmly ensconced on Couture’s left wing. It was the third player on that line that impacted whether or not the Sharks controlled the flow of the game.

Courtesy: Evolving-Hockey

The lines above are in order of ice time. The line made up of Barabanov, Couture and Matt Nieto spent the most time together, playing more than 287 minutes at even strength.

Unfortunately, they did not adequately control the play against opponents when they were together. You’ll notice that the Corsi for percentage (CF%) is 46.81, meaning it was often more likely that the opponent controlled the play. The differential between goals for per 60 minutes (GF/60) and goals against per 60 minutes (GA/60) is negative 1.26. The line was outscored a lot.

But when Barabanov and Couture played with Michael Eyssimont, the trio did a great job of controlling the play. Eyssimont had some of the team’s best on ice statistics this past season, even though his time in San Jose was short. Barabanov and Couture helped contribute to that success. You’ll notice that in the 124 minutes of ice time at even strength, the CF% was 15 percent higher than the combination that included Nieto. What’s more, the goal differential was a positive 1.45.

Amazingly, when Barabanov was moved up to the top line with Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, the forward did not fare as well. A CF% of 50.23 percent is not impressive for a line filled with that much talent. A goal differential of a negative 2.36 is also not great.

It is clear that Couture and Barabanov have found chemistry together. If San Jose wants to ice a potent second line next season, the coaching staff must find a third forward that meshes well with the pair’s game.

Barabanov’s future with the Sharks

Of course, there’s always the chance that Barabanov will not make it to the Sharks’ training camp in September. General Manager Mike Grier is in the process of selling off assets as he rebuilds on the fly. Barabanov is an asset at a terrific price. He has one year left at a $2.5 million AAV.

That’s a great deal and makes Barabanov trade bait. The only question is, does Grier sell now or wait until the trade deadline?

Either way is a good play for Grier, as long as his choice is to trade Barabanov eventually. $2.5 million for a 15 goal, 47 point forward is a steal in today’s NHL. Receiving a 2nd round pick in 2023 or a 3rd and 4th round pick would be great. It would be even more impressive if Grier could land a pick and a quality prospect.

From the rebuild standpoint, the more picks in 2023, the merrier. However, I also understand if Grier wants to wait until the trade deadline to see if the forward’s stock rises even more. Either choice works for me.

I would not understand if Grier hangs on to Barabanov past the trade deadline. Barabanov is an asset that a rebuilding team like the Sharks cannot afford to waste. This means that the team cannot allow Barabanov to remain in teal at the end of this upcoming season. As much as I enjoy watching him play, I can’t see Barabanov factoring into San Jose’s long term plans, especially given his age and what he’ll require for an upcoming contract.

A trade seems like the best option for the Sharks.

Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we will be rolling out the player reviews for the San Jose Sharks. We realize there were a lot of guys rotating into and out of the lineup and some of the key depth players were traded. As a result, Fear the Fin plans to focus on the players that are 1) still with the Sharks and 2) played 20 or more games for San Jose this season.

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