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The Habs would be wise to extend Mark Barberio

One of the rare pleasant surprises this season, Barberio seems to have cemented a spot within the organization. You could even pencil him into a top four spot if injuries hit.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning decision, the Tampa Bay Lightning declined to qualify Mark Barberio last summer, making him available on the free agent market. The Montreal Canadiens decided to sign the mobile defender, and you'd be hard pressed to argue that it wasn't a worthwhile move.

Barberio has shown a great penchant for driving the play and creating scoring chances, which is something the Habs have sorely missed among their defenders in recent years.

We've already established that he is a valuable player based on a simple player evaluation, now it's time to dig deeper into the numbers.

First, let's take a look at his individual statistics, and where they rank among Habs defenders.

(all stats 5 vs 5, score adjusted via war-on-ice.com, CF% = Corsi For %, CF% Rel = CF% relative to teammates, CF 60 = Corsi For per 60, CA 60 = Corsi against per 60, SF% = shot for %, SF 60 = shots for per 60, SA 60 = shots against per 60.)

As you can see, when it comes to controlling shots, Barberio is one of the better Canadiens defencemen. His mobility and offensive prowess have clearly produced positive results, especially if we consider that he was more or less unceremoniously dumped by the Lightning. He currently sports the second-best Corsi-for percentage on the team, behind veteran Jeff Petry.

While his shots against are a little high, one only has to take a look at his shots for to end any concern.

(all stats 5 vs 5, score adjusted via war-on-ice.com, SCF% = Scoring Chance For %, HD SCF% = High-danger scoring chance for %)

Barberio looks even better when it comes to his scoring chances. Once again he ranks second on the team in a very important category: scoring-chances-for percentage. Interestingly, the reason he ranks so highly is not necessarily because the Habs create a ton of chances while he's on the ice, but rather that opponents create fewer chances against.

In terms of high-danger scoring chances, Barberio has been one of the better Canadiens defenders this season.

This is made even more impressive considering he has played the majority of his games since the historic January collapse, and has seen a revolving cast of defensive partners. Despite a lack of consistency on his opposite side, Barberio has displayed all the skill and ability you want to see from a potential top-four defender.

What's more, when you head over to Corsica, and search the Habs defensive pairings this year, you'll find Barberio's name three times among the top four pairings in terms of Corsi-for percentage.

Based on his last three seasons, it's easy to see why the Habs were interested in Barberio this past summer.

Of course those are based on a limited sample size, and seeing as he only played 30 games this season you could argue that the numbers are of limited value, but as it stands he's clearly demonstrating that he's way above replacement level in the NHL.

Beaulieu vs Barberio

We have to be careful here, seeing as Beaulieu is three years younger than Barberio, which means, by all logic, Barberio should be ahead of him when it comes to development. Beaulieu has played more often in the top four lately, whereas Barberio has played with worse defensive partners.

As the following WARRIOR chart indicates, that is the case. At this exact moment, it's fair to say Barberio is producing better results than his counterpart.

If we take a look at their individual statistics this season, the same conclusion can be reached, seeing as Barberio has produced superior results in every category.

Beaulieu still has time to develop into a legitimate top-four defender, but he's not quite there yet.

Barberio may not quite reach that level, but he's putting up respectable numbers. If injuries hit, he could be a suitable temporary replacement in the top four.

At 26, he is in his prime years, and the team would be wise to lock up his services for a few years before his value rises.