On Monday, the St. Louis Blues announced the signing of 2014 second-round pick Ivan Barbashev to a three-year entry level contract. The 18-year-old Barbashev played in 48 games for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL last season, scoring 25 goals and notching 43 assists.
This was somewhat of a surprise move, because there wasn’t really any expectation that Barbashev would have a shot at playing in the NHL in 2014-15. While it’s still extremely unlikely that he cracks the Blues’ opening roster, his clock is now ticking, and he should be around sooner than later.
Barbashev will likely come to the Blues’ training camp in September, and he may get to suit up for some preseason games. The time beyond then is where the dilemma lies. If the Blues decide that Barbashev is good enough to make their regular season NHL roster, (which, again, is unlikely due to the fact that they have 15 solid forwards on the team) they can keep him with the club for a trial period of up to 10 games. Once he’s played in nine games, the Blues must decide whether they want to keep him for the full season. The Blues were faced with this situation in 2008 with Alex Pietrangelo, and they ultimately decided to send him back to juniors.
If they decide to send Barbashev back, he’ll go to Moncton, where he will be contractually obligated to stay until the end of their season. He is not allowed to play with the Blues’ AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, due to the fact that the AHL and CHL (the conglomerate of Canadian junior leagues) have an agreement preventing any players with CHL service time from playing in the AHL in a season where they aren’t 20 years old by December 31. Since Barbashev was born on December 14, 1995, he still has to play one more junior season unless he goes to the NHL.
The QMJHL season ends in March, but if the Wildcats end up making the playoffs Barbashev could be stuck there until April. If the Wildcats’ season finishes quickly enough, it’s very possible that Barbashev could join the Blues and take part in the stretch run, as we saw Dmitrij Jaskin do following the conclusion of his season with Moncton in 2012-13. It would be more for developmental purposes than anything, but it’s worth noting that Jaskin did get into two games with the Blues after signing in April of 2013.
General manager Doug Armstrong said last week that Barbashev was closer to NHL-ready than first-rounder Robby Fabbri was, and he backed it up with today’s signing. With this move, expect to see him contributing to the Blues on some level by next season at the latest.