The Leafs should put in a waiver claim on Mark Barberio

Updated: January 11, 2018 at 12:57 am by Jeff Veillette

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Photo Credit: Charles Leclaire/USA TODAY SPORTS

The Montreal Canadiens, archrivals of the Toronto Maple Leafs and leaders of the Atlantic Division, have an abundance of defencemen and players returning to their lineup. As such, today was a tough decision day for them, and their first move as such has been to place Mark Barberio on waivers.

In this case, there is absolutely no reason why the Leafs shouldn’t put a claim in.

Team relative shot attempts when paired with Mark Barberio, 5v5, 60+ minutes, since 14/15

Year Partner Minutes CF60Rel CA60Rel CF%Rel
2016/17 Greg Pateryn 66.8 3.1 -21 18.2
2015/16 Alexei Emelin 73.6 4.5 -14.4 11.8
2016/17 Jeff Petry 80.8 13.4 -5.5 9.2
2015/16 Nathan Beaulieu 64.6 1.9 -14 7.9
2016/17 Zach Redmond 88 -5.4 -13 7.9
2014/15 Anton Stralman 197.5 4.9 -4.4 5.3
2016/17 Ryan Johnston 64.7 -5 -3.4 4.3
2014/15 Andrej Sustr 199.2 -5.7 -1.7 -1.7
2014/15 Radko Gudas 110.1 2 5.2 -1.7
2014/15 Matt Carle 115.7 6.1 10.8 -2

Barberio, a 26-year-old defenceman from the Montreal area, has been consistent at driving play at even strength for multiple years now, both in the sense of creating shot volume (+1.48 relative attempts for per hour since 2014/15), and in suppressing opposition attempts (-3.74 CA60Rel). 

As far as actual production goes, he hasn’t been mindblowing over the course of his career. Rarely getting special teams time of any sort and averaging just 15:29 of ice time a night since coming into the league, Barberio has 31 points in 159 games, peaking with 10 points in 30 games last year. He’s been much more proficient in the American Hockey League, where he’s picked up 141 points in 193 games with Norfolk, Syracuse, and St. John’s over the past four seasons.

Barberio hits the wire due to an abundance of skaters currently up with the Habs. Montreal already has Andrei Markov, Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin, and Nikita Nesterov as left-handed options on the point. Markov and Emelin are veterans that the team is loyal to, Nesterov was just acquired, and Beaulieu has emerged as a legitimate middle-pair defender this season.

More than anything, Barberio’s physical traits seem to be in-line with the Leafs’ play style. He’s sold but not gigantic at 6’1, 207 pounds, he’s a solid skater, and he’s more than capable of passing and shooting the puck. On an offensively inclined team like the Leafs, he can help them continue to push the puck away from their own zone and perhaps produce a little bit more than he has in previous seasons.

What makes a chance like this alluring is the extremely low risk involved. Barberio has two years left on his deal at $750,000. If it works out, you’ve got a steal of a third pair defenceman for the next couple of years. If it doesn’t, he can be waived and lost again, or if he clears, he’ll be on your AHL team at no cap cost. 

Giving him a chance would also allow the Leafs to move on from one of the other left-handed defencemen up right now, should they so choose to cash one of Martin Marincin or Matt Hunwick in for an asset. The latter would likely be the best option to go with, given that he’s performed to a lower standard and that he isn’t usable as Expansion Draft bait. With that said, Barberio is only 14 games away from exposure eligibility himself, so he could give Toronto an option to throw Marincin into a package deal later in the month, should they see fit. 

The biggest hurdle here is that other teams are in the mix. Toronto is no longer in an opportunistic position the waiver wire; eighteen other teams will have a chance to make a claim before they do. He’d certainly be a shrewd pickup, though, as would his former temporary defence partner Tom Gilbert, who the Los Angeles Kings waived today as well. Gilbert is the less “sexy” pick of the two, though, as he’s eight years older and comes with a steeper contract. If Toronto could somehow poach both, though, that would likely be a significant, if a temporary upgrade to their third pair.