Oates upset after back-to-back losses
When Mikhail Grabovski signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the 2012-13 season, he thought he’d be a Leaf for life.
One summer later he learned the Leafs had bought out the final four years of that contract, paying him a total of $14.3 million over the next eight seasons.
Getting a $1.79 million annuity over eight seasons might sound good to most people, but Grabovski was hurt by the Leafs’ decision and is anxious to return to Air Canada Centre for the first time since the Leafs let him go.
“Toronto is second my home,” Grabovski said. “Five years in the city. I feel like the fans were like family. I grew up in this place and I’m excited to come to Toronto and play.”
Through 23 games, Grabovski is third on the Caps in scoring with seven goals and 12 assists and is a plus-3 while averaging 15:39 in ice time.
In 48 games with the Leafs last season he finished with nine goals and seven assists and a minus-10 rating while average 15:34 in ice time.
Grabovski saw much of that ice time reduced under head coach Randy Carlyle, who limited him to fourth-line duties and made it easier for the Leafs to cut their ties with Grabovski. After the buyout, Grabovski called Carlyle an “idiot” in a radio interview. Later, Carlyle said Grabovski is just another player.
“I think it’s a good move for me here,” said Grabovski, who will get two new linemates tonight in left wing Eric Fehr and right wing Troy Brouwer. “Of course, I feel terrible when they buy out my contract, but right now I feel excellent because I can play my style of hockey. I enjoy playing where people trust you and give you a chance to play.”
For the past 15 games that has been with Jason Chimera and Joel Ward. The trio combined for 15 goals in those games, making it one of the most dangerous lines in hockey.
“Me and Wardo like to work the puck down low and Grabo likes to carry the puck,” Chimera said. “He’s used my speed and hit me in full flight. He doesn’t slow it down, which is a big thing. A lot of skilled centermen like to turn it back and he doesn’t turn it back. He goes one way. He’s a skilled guy but he thinks a lot like us. He wants to keep it simple and that’s what me and Wardo are all about.”
That will have to be the mindset of Brooks Laich, who tonight will take Grabovski spot on that third line. Grabovski’s promotion is an attempt by Adam Oates to get some production out of his struggling second line, which had five even-strength goals in the first 23 games of the season.
Grabovski said he’s excited to play in Toronto but deflected attention away from his public spat with Carlyle, saying he helped him become a better defensive player.
As for his future in Washington, Grabovski said the Capitals have not come to him or his agent to discuss a contract extension beyond this season.
“No, we’re playing right now,” he said. “At the end of the year. It’s not just about numbers. I don’t care about numbers. It’s more about how I fit in. If I play good they [may] want to keep me. I’m happy here.”