Long before Mike Ribeiro signed a four-year, $22 million free-agent contract with the Phoenix Coyotes on July 5, Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer did the math and knew the Caps would have a tough time keeping the 33-year-old second line center.
“I looked at the cap situation, who we had to sign and you could see there wasn’t room to do much,” Brouwer said. “So I’m not really surprised it took this long to make a move.”
On Friday, a little more than two weeks before the start of training camp, the Caps announced the signing of free-agent center Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million contract, leaving restricted free agent Marcus Johansson as the only unsigned player on their roster.
“I would have loved to see [Ribeiro] back but that’s the business of hockey,” Brouwer said. “With Ribs gone we needed to fill that spot and we went out and did it.”
Grabovski, 29, recorded nine goals and seven assists in 48 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, which ended with him criticizing head coach Randy Carlyle for a lack of playing time.
James van Riemsdyk, who played on the Leafs with Grabovski last season, described him as a great skater with a good shot and excellent instincts in all three zones. He said Grabovski was also well-liked in the Leafs locker room.
“I enjoyed him as a teammate,” van Riemsdyk said. “I thought he was a great guy, The guys on the team loved him. A real competitive guy, a real fiery personality.
“He may have a quiet exterior, but he has a lot of passion for the game and I expect him to do great things here.
“I’m sure he’s excited for a fresh start and I’m sure he’ll have a great year.”
“I think with the style we play it’s probably going to be beneficial to him,” he said. “He’ll get a lot of ice time under Oatesy. He’s got a one-year contract and he’s got to play for his minutes and we expect him to.”