Blues re-sign Ivan Barbashev, keeping key piece of the puzzle
NHL 

Speculation over Ivan Barbashev’s future is officially over.

The St. Louis Blues have re-signed the Russian forward to a two-year contract that carries an AAV of $1.475 million, the team announced on Sunday.

As negotiations dragged on through the summer between the team and the restricted free agent, Barbashev’s camp revealed that he was also considering playing overseas in 2019-20, per The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford.

Despite that uncertainty, a deal finally got done, and it’s a good thing for the Blues as they hold onto a key piece to the puzzle moving forward.

NHL FREE AGENCY 2019: Complete tracker for all 31 teams’ RFAs, UFAs

The 23-year-old serves the main role of being a reliable fourth-line center but most importantly, he’s a utility player who wears many hats – and is proving to be one of St. Louis’ most reliable players.

In 80 games last season, Barbashev managed 14 goals and 26 points, followed by six points in 25 playoff games en route to St. Louis’ first title. He doubled his goal and point production this season, and although he isn’t known for his offensive acumen, his presence was vital as he showed improvement as he evolves as a player.

The 6-0, 185-pound center is a versatile forward who has not only gotten better in the face-off circle but can also provide depth and generate momentum when his team needs it. For instance, Barbashev, who isn’t known for his physicality, turned up the aggression in the postseason and led all skaters with 87 hits through 25 gamers.

His fourth-line unit also came up big at key moments through the playoffs.

Additionally, Barbashev is someone that takes good care of the puck, rarely making mistakes or turning it over. This is a strong sign for a player that makes 62.7 percent of his starts in the defensive zone and shows his capability as a reliable two-way forward.

Beyond his play at even strength, Barbashev also performs well on special teams. He averaged 1:35 minutes shorthanded and was one of the key pieces of the St. Louis penalty kill.

Still, the 2014 33rd-overall pick needs to find consistency and a way to grow his offensive output if he wants to earn a bigger role in the future.

Overall, this is a low-cost, high-reward signing for the defending Cup champions.

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