After talking to a few people, we've all pretty much come to the same conclusion. Mark Barberio signing with his hometown team of Montreal has set his career back. Reactions ran from him being stuck in the AHL forever now, to him being stuck in pretty much the same position he was in in Tampa.
He chose comfort, familiarity, and childhood dreams over his NHL career, and that's going to cost him. Probably. Another NHL team may pick him up off of waivers when he gets sent down to St. John's in Newfoundland and save him from himself. But if that doesn't happen, then chances are good that he'll be in the AHL for a large portion of the season.
And the thing is, he's not an AHLer. Right now, he's probably a #4 or #5 defenseman on an NHL team that needed a guy like him, and he'll only get better if he's playing against top competition. He probably would've had to have worked up to that from starting out as #5 or #6, but still. Being in the AHL won't give him that. He may dominate in the minors, sure, but he was doing that three years ago. It's a step backwards, not a step forward.
I don't know what kind of offers he was getting, but the first question he should've asked himself about any of them was if he'd get consistent NHL playing time. And if the answer to that wasn't yes, then he should've passed. There were plenty of NHL teams out there in need of a defenseman like him, and they probably would've given him a good 70 games this year.
Montreal has plenty of defensemen, so chances of him living the dream in his hometown are pretty slim. Especially since the head coach, Michel Therrien, probably won't like how he plays. He would've had a better shot at playing there towards the end of the NHL career instead.
I understand that it probably seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it really wasn't. Montreal's always willing to listen to the agents of good players who are from La Belle Province, and particularly if they're from the town itself. They're pretty infamous for that, in fact. So it wasn't a matter of "if" so much as a matter of "when".
You can't take one aspect of a decision and decide that's all you need to make something work. From the outside looking in, it appears to be an impulsive decision that was entirely based upon family and / or childhood dreams that potentially could end up costing him an NHL career. And he's just too good to be a life-long minor leaguer, which is the tragedy of it all.
Could he make the opening night roster in Montreal? I'd like to think he could, because I know he's a good player, but at the same time I sort of doubt it. They've already got established defensemen that they like and are comfortable with - and he is not one of those. Again, if he's playing with the NHL club, he'll likely be doing some press box time - which is exactly what he was doing in Tampa Bay.
Thankfully, it's only a year contract, he could get picked up off waivers, and he's 25 years old - so it's not a total disaster. That's the one bright side to all of this. But I hope he likes Newfoundland, since he's probably going to be spending some quality time there.