Mikhail Grabovski—Deal Or No Deal?
After posting career highs in goals, assists and points last season, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski has followed up his awesome 2010-11 performance with a good season, but hardly a dominant season—at least to date.
Through 35 games Grabovski has registered 12 goals and 23 points, which should put him just short of last seasons totals—say around 50 points when everything is said and done.
Known as a risk-taking, defensively irresponsible player in his early years, Grabovski has evolved into a hard working, reliable forward who possesses top-end speed, great creativity and very good hockey sense.
With 173 points through 280 career NHL games, nobody ever expects to see Grabovski amongst the NHL’s scoring leaders. That said, what we do expect is a player that can give you upwards of 16 minutes per game, while chipping in with 20 plus goals and upwards of 50 points.
Last season Grabovski’s 58 points ranked him 50th overall amongst all NHL forwards. With a cap hit of $2.9 million, Grabovski is hardly looked at as a bargain, rather status quo for a player of his ilk.
With the trade deadline and a possible playoff birth looming for Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke, he will have a tough decision to make with respect to Grabovski (who will be a unrestricted free agent after this season) and his future with the Blue and White.
In a perfect world Burke would never consider trading the likes of Grabovski away. But todays NHL , salary cap and all, is far from a perfect world, which means players like Grabovski are often trade fodder—especially for teams that do not make the playoffs.
A playoff birth, or rather lack thereof, will likely spell the end of Grabovski’s time with the Maple Leafs. But if the Maple Leafs were to make the playoffs, Burke is likely going to hold onto Grabovski, in hopes that he catches fire and becomes a big playoff contributor for the Maple Leafs.
Of course, there are no guarantees in todays NHL. Should the right player be presented to Burke with Grabovski having to go the other way Burke has demonstrated the ability to pull the trigger regardless of a players status with the team, or apparent friendship Burke has with said player.
With the chemistry of Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur and Grabovski—one of the NHL’s most dangerous trio’s in 2010-11—in question, one wonders if Grabovski’s stock has fallen from a near untouchable to that of trade fodder?
The truth is, Grabovski might just need the Maple Leafs as much as Burke and company needs Grabovski.
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson’s system is a perfect fit for Grabovski—one which allows Grabo to press defenses, while being insulated with two very competitive line mates who are defensively responsible and offensively gifted.
On a lesser team, with lesser line mates, Grabovski may not be the player he is in Toronto. Truth be told, Grabovski needs to be alongside players that can go into the trenches and feed him the puck while also being able to use his speed—an asset Wilson has encouraged Grabo to use—to his advantage.
Should Grabovski stay with the Maple Leafs there is little doubt he will be successful. As one of the longest serving members of the Blue and White, Grabo, while not a household name outside of Toronto, has found a home with the Maple Leafs after being cast aside by the Montreal Canadiens after the 2007-08 season.
The question is—if not Grabovski, then which player does Burke bring in to fill his shoes?
Ideally, Nazem Kadri would be able to step up and assume Grabovski’s spot on the second line. But with Kadri struggling with his consistency, nobody is looking to give Grabo’s spot to Kadri, at least not at this point and time.
Joe Colborne might be another option, but he too hasn’t the experience at the NHL level that leads many to believe that he could get the job done for a full 82-game season.
With few options at the AHL level and without the confidence that Kadri can step up anytime soon, there is every indication that, unless Burke can find a better fit at Grabovski’s price tag, that Grabovski will be inking an extension with the Maple Leafs this summer.
Without question, price will be a huge factor in determining Grabovski’s future with the Blue and White, but when you consider how few options there are within the UFA’s next summer, Grabo looks to be pretty safe.
Until next time,