This won’t be last year’s will-he-stay-or-go Timo Meier or Erik Karlsson drama.
But unlike Meier and Karlsson, one thing is clear: Slightly less-famous Alexander Barabanov wants to stay with the San Jose Sharks long-term. The pending UFA is currently in the last season of a two-year, $5 million contract.
“Of course, I want to stay here. My two babies were born here. I like the group here,” he said.
Barabanov welcomed his second child on Jul. 27.
“But it’s a business,” he acknowledged. “We’ll see what happens.”
We’ll also see how the 29-year-old’s game has grown this past summer. The winger has been very productive since the San Jose Sharks acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in Apr. 2021, piling up 93 points in 147 games. That’s fifth on the Sharks in that period of time.
But both San Jose Sharks GM Mike Grier and head coach David Quinn, three days into training camp, think that Barabanov has another level.
“I liked his season last year. He and I talked about that there’s another level for him to get to. I think this guy is just scratching the surface,” Quinn said. “He’s a really smart player. He’s competitive. He’s spent a lot of time improving his shot. He looks a little bit quicker right now.”
Grier agreed: “He put a lot of time in, and I think Quinny asked him to work on a few things this summer, and he looks stronger and quicker out there.”
“He and I talked a lot about taking the next step as an offensive player, shooting pucks more, not holding on to it as long,” Quinn said. “I think that will help him be a more productive offensive player.”
Barabanov pledged: “I will shoot more.”
“He’s always been receptive to anything we asked him to do,” Quinn noted.
Barabanov sounds like a keeper. But it’s hard to say where his age and potentially lucrative next contract fits into the San Jose Sharks’ rebuild. On one hand, he might be attractive Trade Deadline bait. On the other hand, in any rebuild, it’s good to keep a few solid vets around to lead the way.
“There’s definitely some merit to thinking about extending those guys and having them around here,” Grier said specifically about pending UFAs Barabanov and Anthony Duclair. “As we kind of transition here, like you said, we have a lot of UFA’s and we have some young guys that are kind of knocking on the door.
“One of these years, these guys will be ready to play, and we’ll be a young team, but we’re also going to need some vets around them to, like we said, show them the way and show them how things are done and support them on the ice and off the ice.”
Keeping the focus on the ice – and not on his contract – sounds good to Barabanov.
“I try not to think too much about this. You know, just try work to hard and do my job. That’s it,” he said. “Because if you think too much, it [doesn’t] help you.”
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