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Canadiens Contracts: Finding Justin Barron’s True NHL Value

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Montreal Canadiens defenceman Justin Barron

It should be a relatively easy summer for Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes, with the list of notable restricted free agents seeking an extension limited to Arber Xhekaj, Jesse Ylonen, and Justin Barron.

While Xhekaj’s value to the franchise is clear as day, the same cannot be said for Barron.

Evaluating Justin Barron’s Value To The Montreal Canadiens

From an offensive standpoint, Barron has been quite the revelation.

In parts of three seasons with the Canadiens, the right-handed defenceman has produced 12 goals and 18 assists in 94 games, quite a respectable production rate when you consider he’s spent limited time on the powerplay. He has also had to deal with relatively lengthy AHL re-assignments in both 2022-23 and 2023-24.

You’d be hard-pressed to argue he’s been shown any semblance of consistency in his usage.

To be fair to both the Canadiens coaching staff and the management group, Barron’s play on the ice prior to the AHL assignments also epitomized inconsistency.

Of course, his seven goals in just 48 games this season are worth keeping in mind, but there have been long stretches in which Barron’s decision-making has been questionable, at best.

Head coach Martin St-Louis demands a lot of his defencemen, especially when it comes to driving the offence from the blue line, but there are times when he seems to lose his confidence, leading to blown coverage in the defensive zone.


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He’s also prone to turnovers deep in his own zone when he’s attempting a breakout.

When he relies purely on his instincts, he can quickly corral the puck and generate a tape-to-tape pass that leads to high-danger scoring chances, but when he has too much time to think he complicates the process, leading to discombobulated plays.

Context Is Everything

Playing in Montreal means it’s impossible to fly under the radar. What’s more, given that Barron was acquired in a trade for a team favourite (Artturi Lehkonen), he has come under intense scrutiny.

But we do have to remember that Barron is one the youngest players on one of the youngest lineups in the league.

At 22 years old, he’s a few months older than Kaiden Guhle, which means he’s younger than Jayden Struble, Arber Xhekaj, and Jordan Harris.

The unprecedented addition of several rookies to the blueline since Martin St-Louis was named head coach has led to the perception that playing in the NHL at such a young age is normal.

It is not.

At least not for most players in the history of the league.

We also have to consider Barron has responded well to his AHL assignments, returning to the NHL with a renewed sense of confidence.

He’s also a right-handed defenceman, one of the most important positions in the sport, and he fulfils a rather crucial role: that of a puck-moving defenceman.

Unfortunately, puck-moving defencemen have an uphill battle when it comes to dealing with perception.

They carry the puck much more often than their counterparts, which means they’re also bound to lose the puck more often. Many of those turnovers can lead to scoring chances due to the nature of the role, which means fans will have an easier time remembering them.

That’s called the ‘availability heuristic‘.

A puck-moving defenceman can make 12 clean breakaways in one game, most of which will be forgotten, but if they lose the puck once and it ends up leading to a goal, it will haunt them for at least a season, if not longer.

It’s up to the coaching staff to remind them that it’s a process that should lead to better results in the long run.

Justin Barron Brass Tacks

Barron is likely to be given a short-term bridge contract so the management group can continue evaluating his NHL potential, but there’s enough good in his game to suggest that he may be worth taking a gamble on.

Not a significant gamble, mind you.

A deal in the three-year range could give them enough time to work with Barron while also taking advantage of his underrated offensive impact. It would also afford the young defenceman a little stability, which would surely improve his overall confidence.

Just like most of the young defencemen in the organization, Barron needs more experience to work on his weaknesses and polish his strengths.

And though some may not consider him to be at the same level as a player like Harris, Struble, or even Xhekaj, it’s impossible to ignore that Justin Barron has already established himself as a defenceman who can make a positive impact on a nightly basis, unlike the aforementioned players.

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John

Writing “acquired in a trade for a team favourite (Artturi Lehkonen)” is revisionist history. Lehkonen was a constant target of fans and media for his lack of finishing touch, and these fans and media had him removed from the team, whether by trade, demotion or waivers, long before the trade was made. Everyone has short memories on this topic.

As for Barron, I like him a lot, and think that he should be given a fair shot at earning a regular position.

Tyrone

I wouldn’t be averse to packaging Barron & the WPG 1st (and more if needed) to jump way up in the draft and grab Eiserman as well as whomever we get at #5 with our own pick. I would prefer to use Harris or Struble as the D prospect going the other way if only for the sheer number of LD we have. But, if Barron holds more value because of his offensive abilities and being a righty, and that’s what it takes to grab Eiserman, then I’m all for it.

Pete

Eiserman will likely drop in the draft due to character issues. He has great offensive talent, but I wouldn’t touch him or any player like him that bring what he does to a dressing room.

Tyrone

I don’t buy 99% of these “character issue” rumours we hear about players/prospects. We’re not in the room, so to speak to them is completely unfounded. In the online world one guy says it, it gets regurgitated by everyone else out there, and suddenly it’s “fact”. If he had such a bad character, he would not have made it to the level he already has, and wouldn’t be a part of the top level teams he’s been on. You don’t get chosen to represent your country in international events if you’re a cancer in the dressing room. The coaches/GMs obviously talk to the people he’s played with/for in the past. If he was a problem, he wouldn’t be chosen to play on their teams. It’s all BS, and if others believe it, then it’s all the better for us. It’ll mean we have a better chance to get him. NHL management and scouting departments aren’t dumb enough to believe stuff written on the internet. They’ll do their research and find out the same thing that every other GM who chose him to be on their team before has. I just hope he’s available when it’s our turn to make a pick.

Dana

There are times JB looks like he has the skill set of an all star, but it’s too sporadic to take it seriously. 6’2”, nice skating RD should have value but your points about confidence and decision making (connected) are his fundamental flaws. I really hoped this player would be able to overcome as he fits an organizational need, but it’s looking less probable.
I’d only give him a 1 year deal- 3 years might promote a lack of urgency.

Bev Seney

Kinda wonder how comparable he would be to Matheson in his younger days. Pittsburg were not that keen on Matheson and traded him for Petry. He may just need more time to develop.

Bev Seney

Matheson certainly struggled 5 urs in Florida and then to Pittsburg before Montreal. Early sets were not that great.

Dana

He was playing top 4 in Florida and full 82 game seasons as soon as he made the nhl, so while I see the comparables in some tools, the process was far different. What a huge bonus for the team if he started fulfilling his potential right away.

Eddy

I sometimes wonder if Barron could be a good forward, as his offensive skills are superior to many forwards.

KSC

No value. He turns the puck over as much as Matheson, if not more. Trade him.

Alibaba

Remember that he’s only 22 yrs old. Look how long it took Matheson to find his game. Most defensemen need 200 games in the NHL to truly see their potential. Another example of patience being an advantage is Bouchard in Edmonton. They are thrilled with his play these days.

Marc

trade LD not RD. Give him time to work on his defence. Right now his value is too low and we are thin on the right side.

habbernack

I watches all Laval games through AHL subscription cuz I want to see the prospects and He makes bad decisions with the puck.

Greg

From what i saw, Barron had the biggest problem keeping the puck in the other teams’ zones–he’d either bobble the puck and lose it at the line or make a bad read and give it away–and when paired with Matheson especially, there was never anyone back to bail him out of those mistakes.
He’s still young, and most d take longer to mature, so it’s way too early to give up on him, and any trade wouldn’t get as good a return as it should rn.
When he gets his new deal, he won’t be waiver eligible anymore, so it’ll be interesting to see what the plan is going forward (so to speak) with so many NHL quality defencemen and so few slots to play them in.

Dave

One year AHL deal at a high AHL price tag?

Robin

I totally agree that Barron needs to improve his defensive play. Having said that all of the defensemen on the Canadiens with the exception of Harris had a lot of defensive zone turnovers. Matheson led the way with 64 turnovers, followed by Kovacevic (44), Savard (43) Guhle (38) Struble (27) Barron(27) Xhekag(24)
and Harris (20). So not only Barron but the whole group needs to get better.

FlowerPower60

Habs led the league in giveaways in 12-22 and 22-23 by a good margin. This past season they were 4th worst so that part of the game is improving. Running 5 rookies at D was desperation, yes. Moving ahead, I think Habs fans are looking at the possibility of drafting Iginla as Demidov will be gone by #5, (Button now has Tij listed as his #4 ranked player, which is interesting.) which would be great, but if Parekh is available, to you take him anyway? Or is Mailloux, who drained 31 goals as a junior, enough blue-line firepower?

Pete

Modest bridge deal is definitely the right plan. It’s still way too early to project what he’ll become, but he’s definitely worth continuing his development in MTL.

Good article 👍