Alan May on how Grabovski will fit in with Caps
The Capitals have signed forward Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million contract.
Grabovski, whose contract was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer, appears to fill the second line center hole left vacant once again when Mike Ribeiro departed via free agency on July 5 for Phoenix.
“I think [Grabovski] likes our situation here, obviously,” Washington general manager George McPhee said. “We’re a good team, a sold-out building, great fanbase, great city, great travel schedule, stable ownership. And an opportunity to play on a team that likes to score goals.”
The 29-year-old Grabovski has topped 20 goals three times in his career, including 29 goals and 29 assists in 2010-11 and 23 goals and 28 assists in 2011-12. But a change in the front office and coaching staffs led to a different role last season when he finished with nine goals and seven assists in 48 games.
Grabovski was primarily a third line center by the end of the year and expressed extreme displeasure about that in public comments following Toronto’s decision to buy out the final four years and $21.5 million of his last deal.
But a meeting with Caps coach Adam Oates in California in late July, according to Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, convinced Grabovski that the fit here was a good one.
“[Grabovski] liked Adam a lot,” McPhee said. “They had a real good meeting and I think that’s important to this player, having the coach’s trust.”
Grabovski’s addition leaves Washington with about $2.67 million in salary-cap space for the 2013-14 season. A good chunk of that will disappear if the team signs restricted free agent Marcus Johansson to a new contract. McPhee is hopeful that will happen before training camp begins. That would give the Caps 13 forwards and would make adding a depth player to fill out the roster tricky.
Grabovski also allows Washington to deploy forward Brooks Laich in a different role. He was slated to be the second line center, according to McPhee. Now, Laich can move to a top-six wing spot or center the third line and should still see plenty of action on the power play and penalty kill. It’s a role he has thrived in before.
A one-year deal also allows Grabovski to rebuild his value and head back onto the open market next summer with – in theory – a rising salary cap, Greenstin said on Friday. Right now the NHL limits its clubs to $64.3 million, a steep drop after last season’s lockout.
“I think that taking $180 million out of the market place made for some late summer signings and this is one of them,” McPhee said.
Oates has plenty of depth to play with now going into training camp with left wings Johansson, if and when he signs, Martin Erat, Laich, Jason Chimera and Aaron Volpatti. On the right side he has Alex Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, Eric Fehr and Joel Ward.
The centers would be Nicklas Backstom, Grabovski, Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle. That looks like a solid contender as Washington prepares to move to the new Metropolitan Division.