It was on the fourth of July, just over a month ago that the Leafs and general manager Dave Nonis cut ties with fan favorite forward Mikhail Grabovski. No one expected this move to happen especially since Grabovski signed a five-year deal that would have had people seeing him stay with the club for years to come. Unfortunately, that was not the case as Grabovski was let go. Some speculated that there was tension between head coach Randy Carlyle and Grabovski, and Mikhail was not one to shy away after hearing of his release. These quotes are from a TSN article:
I play in the [expletive] Russian KHL, I make lots of [expletive] points and what’s going to happen? He make me [expletive] play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again,” Grabovski spewed. “Yeah, I don’t score goals. I need to work more about that. I know that. But if you feel support from your coach [you'll find success]. I don’t feel any support from this [expletive] idiot.”
To say that Grabovski was upset about the recent news would be a huge understatement, and really can you blame what Grabovski is saying? He only played 15 minutes a night and was 18th on his team in average ice time, and with Tyler Bozak riding Phil Kessel‘s coattails as the first line center, Grabovski was found playing on the third line where facepunchers like Leo Komarov and Colton Orr were seeing ice time. Despite his lack of ice time, Grabovski did manage to have good possession numbers for a team that struggled in that category. He was one of the few Leafs with a positive Relative Corsi rating with 1.0 – yes that is low but mind you it was a short season and Grabbo did not get top line minutes – and he is one of the better two-way forwards for Toronto who was pretty consistent with his play. So the question remains: Why hasn’t any team signed him yet?
It’s not like he can’t produce. Grabovski put up 23 goals in 2012 and 29 in 2011, while finishing with 51 points in 2012, and 58 points in 2011. He also scored 20 goals and 48 points in 78 games in his debut season with the Leafs in 2009. I am surprised that teams who struggle to score goals – teams like the Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, or even the Boston Bruins have decided to look the other way and not sign him. The league today is at a struggle when it comes to high-scoring games, even the NHL apparently wants to reduce goalie pad size, and having a 20-plus goal-scorer sitting at home instead of skating on the ice for a team is certainly confusing, and hard to take in since I am a big fan of his.
It is still months away from the NHL beginning a brand-new 82-game season, and Grabovski could be signed soon, but it is a concerning situation. Maybe his beef with Carlyle raised a red flag for some GMs and owners, or maybe teams just don’t like the guy. But that should not, however, keep a team from signing a guy who can put the puck in the net and keep possession. Of course, having the coach play him on the third line with limited minutes in a season where the Leafs seemed to be at their luckiest may have decreased his value.
Grabovski has shown no interest in jumping ship to the KHL, and wants to remain in the NHL, preferably with three teams who he says will decide in August. Well, it is now August and we have yet to see Grabovski don a new NHL sweater. He can take all the time he needs to make a decision, but not hearing of any teams reach out to him with offers and deals is surprising to me and to others I am sure.
In a weak free agent class that saw the likes of David Clarkson and Tyler Bozak sign up and extend with Toronto, there is not much talent or depth a team can add. Grabovski stands out as the one player who can make a positive difference and impact on a team’s season. Where do you think Grabovski will end up? Or will he even be in the NHL when the season starts?