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Decision time approaches on Mark Barberio as waiver requirement looms

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One more game played and Barberio will need to clear waivers in order to return to the St. John IceCaps.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Barberio was considered an interesting insurance policy when the Montreal Canadiens signed him in the off-season. The restricted free agent defenceman was brought into the organization after the Tampa Bay Lightning decided not to present the qualifying offer necessary to maintain his services.

At the conclusion of this summer's training camp he was submitted to waivers, cleared, and was assigned to the St. John's IceCaps, in favour of Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn.

On December 27th, Tom Gilbert was placed on the Injured Reserve list, and Barberio was recalled from the AHL. On January 17th, he played his ninth game as a Hab. This now puts the Canadiens in a precarious position.

As the new waiver rules dictate, something that Eric Engels reiterated on Monday morning, if Barberio plays one more game, he will once again have to clear waivers in order to be re-assigned to the AHL.

For those unfamiliar with the new waiver system, the rules are thus:

A player who already cleared waivers once during a season can be recalled (without re-entry waivers), and then re-assigned back to the AHL without having to re-submit him to waivers unless one of the following two criteria occur:

  1. The player plays 10 games or more
  2. The player has been in the NHL for 30 days or more

So unless the Montreal Canadiens are committed to keeping Barberio on the team, they will need to either keep him out of the lineup or send him back to the IceCaps soon. If not, the organization risks losing him during another  waiver submission, something they were obviously unwilling to do with Tinordi.

Has Barberio played well enough to deserve a permanent promotion? It can be argued that he performed better than Tinordi. Pateryn has been very good in the limited action that he has seen, and so his spot as a spare defenceman is likely safe. Therrien utilizes Barberio, on average, for only 13 minutes per game, which is by far the lowest total of any defenceman, while also grating him no special teams minutes. Barberio has only recorded two assists in his nine games, so his offensive contribution is not irreplaceable.

With the arrival of Victor Bartley, who has an equal amount of NHL experience (112 games), the team has a similar player who can also take on the kind of minutes, and that might make Barberio expendable at the moment.

More than likely the Habs will let Bartley play a game or two, while Barberio sits as a healthy scratch, just to fully evaluate his play and fit on the team. Then — at the latest, by January 26th — Bergevin will need to decide, likely between Barberio and Bartley — which defence gets assigned to the IceCaps.

The decision will not be the last that needs to be made on defence, as Tom Gilbert is expected to return from IR in the first week of February, requiring another tactical shuffle of the defensive depth.