29-Year-Old Defenseman – Calgary Flames
Anton Babchuk Contract Information:
Signed a two-year, $5 million deal with the Flames in July of 2011.
Babchuk has signed a deal with the Kontinental Hockey League, according to the Calgary Herald.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Despite signing a two-year, $5 million contract to open the season, Babchuk’s 2011-12 campaign can only be viewed as a bust, as he was a healthy scratch much of the year. He played only 32 games, and was in and out of the doghouse on numerous occasions. While he certainly has scoring ability, as he had 35 points the two seasons preceding 2011-12, the Flames have a glut of defensemen, and may sparingly use the former first-round pick. At best, he will garner a third-line defenseman spot.
Babchuk is starting to show the form that caught the eyes of the Chicago Blackhawks, who drafted the 6-foot-5 defenseman 21st overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. After spending time with Omsk Avangard in Russia's KHL league (2008-09), Babchuk returned to the states and delivered 27 points (8 G, 19 A) in 65 games last season. As a big playmaking blueliner with 50-point potential, Flames GM Jay Feaster did the organization a favor by re-signing Babchuk at only $2.5 million per year this summer. He makes for a serviceable fantasy option in most formats.
Babchuk spent last season playing for Omsk Avangard (KHL) after turning down a one-year, $1 million contract from 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford. In his year overseas, Carolina failed to assemble a defensive corps that would be doing much damage with the puck, so Rutherford made a point to bring some offensive-minded rearguards back to Raleigh, including Babchuk and Joe Corvo. Before you follow suit and bring Babchuk back to your fantasy squad, consider that only once has he played more than 70 games in any given season of his 4-year career.
In the regular season of 2008-09, Babchuk stood out as an offensive-minded defenseman who turned heads with career-bests in goals (16) and assists (19), playing in 72 games. Unfortunately, his postseason play was dismal. In fact, the Russian managed just one assist for his only point in 13 games of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs. Hoping that Babchuk’s poor postseason was an aberration, the ‘Canes offered the restricted free agent a one-year, $1 million contract that Babchuk ultimately turned down. Expect the team to trade him before the season begins. Until then, his value is on the decline.
Babchuk discovered something of an offensive touch in Russia, and returns to Carolina to see if he's matured enough to contribute on an NHL level. Given the depth of the Carolina blue line, he should be of interest only to risk-tolerant owners in deep leagues.
Babchuk may get some early-season playing time with the Hurricanes due to some injuries at the blue line. That will give the big (6'5") rearguard an opportunity to impress the coaching staff. If he doesn't, expect a season of shuttling to and from the AHL.