When a high ankle sprain limited center Mikhail Grabovski to 13 goals and 22 assists in 58 games in his first season with the Capitals, many wondered if he had done enough to earn the $5 million a year contract he was seeking to remain in Washington.
George McPhee had to be included among the doubters because he refrained from extending the 30-year-old Belarusian a new contract.
With that in mind, Grabovski set out to prove his worth, if not to his country then certainly to the NHL, at the IIHF World Championships in his hometown of Minsk, Belarus.
In his first five games with the host country, Grabovski has three goals and four assists and has been instrumental in getting Belarus into the final eight of the tournament, which continues with the elimination round on Thursday.
"I don't worry about it," Grabovski told the Canadian Press of his pending unrestricted free agency. "For me personally it's just time for make myself a better player in big arenas, big ice. But people who know me in NHL, they already know me. It doesn't matter here."
Team Belarus is coached by former Caps coach Glen Hanlon, who told the Canadian Press that it won’t be long before Grabovski gets rewarded for his play.
"He's a very dynamic player, my goodness," Hanlon said. "You can't tell me that teams in the NHL can't use a player like that. It's unbelievable. His skill on the power play, his skill to find his wingers is pretty good."
Grabovski told CSNWashington back in April that he and his wife enjoyed their eight-month stay in Washington but that he wanted to wait until a new coach is in place before deciding whether to stay. Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, said Adam Oates was a big reason Grabovski signed with the Capitals after Oates paid him a visit in California last summer. The Caps fired McPhee and Oates on April 26 and there is no specific timetable on when those positions will be filled.
Grabovski earned $3 million on his one-year deal with the Capitals. He’s also receiving $1.8 million in each of the next seven seasons as the result of a buyout from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
He is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, joining a strong group of centers that includes Paul Stastny, Olli Jokinen, David Legwand, Derek Roy, Saku Koivu and Steve Ott.
Other Capitals scheduled to become free agents are Dustin Penner, Tyson Strachan, Joel Rechlicz and Ryan Stoa [UFAs] and Michael Latta, Nate Schmidt and Cameron Schilling [RFAs].