The Leafs should put in a waiver claim on Mark Barberio

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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.

    • Jeff Veillette

      Handedness also matters, though. Can’t have your 7 and 8 both on the same hand; that’s why Barberio is on waivers to begin with. Claiming him would involve moving on from Hunwick or Marincin, I’d think

        • LukeDaDrifter

          There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding next year’s defensive lineup. “What exactly are we expecting our top six defencemen to look like next year?” Is Marincin ready for a full time NHL role? Are we replacing Polak and Hunwick with better bottom six guys? Are we replacing one of our top four and moving someone down? Is there any UFA coming up that we would be interested in? In short how many job openings are there on defence?

  • Stan Smith

    Barbiero is an interesting player. He has decent underlying stats, but was left unqualified by Tampa after 3 seasons, was placed on waivers, and cleared back on October. It makes me wonder why.

    I agree with tealeaves that if the Leafs feel Barbiero is a better 8th ranked dman than Corrado, then claim him, and waive Corrado.

  • LukeWarmWater

    Now speaking of endless and endless and endless stats. I hope, no I demand that a stat fanatic gives to us mere mortal leaf fans the success of a new coach in his first game. Unfortunately for the leafs they will be playing the Blues who will of course have a new bench coach. Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems to me from my recollection that the first game quite often results in the new hiring winning that game. So I expect the actual stats pronto, okay you might have to stay up all night but I’m a patient soul having waited for the leafs to win another cup for 50 years.

    • Stan Smith

      You know what though? Pretty much everytime the Leafs have had a game where they would have an easy excuse to lose, they have come through with a win, so lets hope they keep that trend up.

      One bad sign, Rielly practiced with Corrado on the 4th pairing today, so he probably isn’t ready to come back.

  • LukeWarmWater

    Ken Hitchcock has been a tremendous coach from his days as coach of the Kamloops Blazers to his fine record in the N.H.L. Now Ken had to over come a massive weight problem. Back in his W.H.L. days his Blazers would play the New Westminister Bruins who were a big, mean and tough team along with rabid fans, Hitchcock who was over 300 lbs. would receive during a game a large pizza delivered to him while he was coaching at the bench. Those New Westminster Bruin fans were indeed a nasty group.

  • DukesRocks

    Leafs Lunch brought him up today as well. They tend to agree with Jeff’s break down of Barberio attributes. Patrick O’Sullivan don’t like Marincin and more or less stated Barberio would be an upgrade to Hunwick, Polak and Marincin.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Jeff also stated Barberio did not see any special team assignments. I can only assume that means his coach didn’t feel he was the best for for the penalty kill. Would that matter at all to us?

      • DukesRocks

        I’ve never seen the guy play so I can’t really weigh in on his potential. However, it was stated Barberio is an above average skater with good hockey IQ and would be an upgrade on the Leaf’s present D. I feel the Leaf’s will do their due-diligence on him and if he’s worth it, they will make a move. You have to like his salary. Bottom line, if the guy is any good he will get claimed, if he doesn’t get claimed then I would say O’Sullivan is full of hot air.