Alan May on how Grabovski will fit in with Caps
Seven weeks after Mikhail Grabovski had his contract bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 29-year-old is eager for a fresh start with the Washington Capitals.
“I like the system, it's an offensive team. I just wanted a team who really wants me,” Grabovski said in a conference call Friday. “General manager [George McPhee] and coach [Adam Oates] really wanted me. They like how I play, so I chose Washington. I think I can help them.”
The Capitals announced Friday that they had agreed on a one-year, $3 million deal with Grabovski ending weeks of speculation that the 5-foot-11, 183-pound center was D.C. bound.
Grabovski is a three-time 20-goal scorer and had career highs of 29 goals and 58 points with the Maple Leafs in 2010-11 under then-coach Ron Wilson. Soon after Randy Carlyle replaced Wilson in 2012 though, Grabovski saw both his ice-time and offensive numbers drop.
Grabovski says that he is now looking forward to playing for Oates, and that a meeting with the Capitals’ bench boss earlier this summer played a major role in his deciding to sign with Washington.
“I like everything [Oates] said [to me],” said Grabovski who had nine goals and 16 points in 48 games last season. “I think he understands me, and for me I just need to work hard and try to play my best and I can show coach how I'm a good player.”
Grabovski is not certain what his role will be with the Capitals – that will be “a coach’s decision” he said- but the smart money is on Grabovski becoming the latest pivot to be trusted with the team’s second line responsibilities.
Since Sergei Fedorov last skated with the Capitals in 2009, the revolving door of second line centers in D.C. has included Brendan Morrison, Eric Belanger, Tomas Fleischmann, Jason Arnott, Marcus Johansson, Brooks Laich and Mike Ribeiro.
“When you look around the League, it's a hard position to fill,” general manager George McPhee said last month. “How many teams in this League have a couple of elite centers? Five or six maybe? Generally, you need a really two-way good player to play there.”
Grabovski spent five years in Toronto after failing to catch on as a prospect with the Montreal Canadiens. Despite developing into an NHL regular with Toronto, Grabovski’s tenure with the Maple Leafs wasn’t without controversy.
In Feb. 2009, Grabovski fought teammate Jason Blake at practice, before doing the same with teammate Francois Beauchemin in Nov. 2009. Three months later, Grabovski was arrested, but not charged, for allegedly punching a Montreal Canadiens fan at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.
The Belorussian was also at the center of controversy last season after allegedly biting Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty late in the third period of a blowout win. In July, just days after having his contract bought out by the Maple Leafs, Grabovski lashed out at his former coach Randy Carlyle in an interview with TSN Radio. Grabovski though is ready to turn the page.
“It’s a new life now for me,” he said. “I’ll try my best to prove myself and play better than last year. Right now I just want to think about the future.”