Potential UFA target: Mikhail Grabovski

Mikhail Grabovski is not a #1 center, but he could still help the Rangers

New York’s top two offseason needs are a No. 1 center and an offensive defenseman. There’s not much denying that, but sometimes there just aren’t players available to fulfill those needs, and sometimes the cost of doing so makes for unwise decisions.

With Andrei Markov now off the market, the lone offensive-minded blueliner of note that’s set to hit free agency next week is Matt Niskanen, who’s sure to be overpaid based on one standout season. There doesn’t seem to be a solution on the trade market either, so the Rangers seem be out of luck.

On the other hand, there is a bevy of top-line centers available, including Paul Stastny, Jason Spezza and Joe Thornton. Unfortunately, only Stastny can be had for money alone, and the contract he’s about to receive will be massive for yet another center that’s best served as a No. 2 (sound familiar Rangers fans?). Stastny is poised to cash in on a monster playoff year, but he’s had injury problems and is coming off his first 60-point season since 2009-2010. He is best served as a secondary option, so the funds and term required to land him would create a Brad Richards problem all over again.

The other possibility, a trade, is largely unrealistic after GM Glen Sather packaged two first-round picks to acquire Martin St. Louis in March. Keep dreaming if you think a package headlined by J.T. Miller is enough to catch the interest of San Jose or Ottawa. Prospects like Miller would have to be part of the blockbuster no doubt, but the attention of those teams wouldn’t be attracted without the inclusion of someone like Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Carl Hagelin, Derrick Brassard or Derek Stepan. Dealing any one of those core pieces would be foolish, as they’re all next to impossible to replace and would create gaping new holes immediately.

No, despite Sather’s all-in mentality, there’s just not a great way to dramatically improve the club’s depth chart this offseason.

So what would I do if I were Glen? After acknowledging the aforementioned truths, I’d aim to retain some of the irreplaceable pieces of the Stanley Cup Final roster and improve my depth down the middle by trying to sign 30-year-old center Mikhail Grabovski.

Grabovski is by no means a top-line guy, but adding him to the mix along with Stepan and Brassard would give the Blueshirts three very capable offensive lines while providing a much better on-ice fit than Richards at this point in his career. Grabovski is much more fleet afoot than the departed Richards, is strong in the faceoff circle, and has long been a strong puck possession player. He’s been inconsistent at times, but Grabovski has two 50-point seasons under his belt in the last four years and could have broken that milestone last season if he didn’t miss time with a lingering ankle injury. Grabovski isn’t a star, but he was under-appreciated in Toronto and turned out to be a nice fit with Washington last year.

Though his price is sure to be driven up by the pack of teams chasing Stastny and the teams reluctant to part with the assets necessary to land Thornton or Spezza, the Rangers might be able to land Grabovski for a multi-year pact at somewhere around $4.5 million annually.

All of these cap hits are obviously estimates, but here’s how I envision the roster:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 9.06.23 PM

And before you get all upset because this hypothetical move blocks Oscar Lindberg temporarily, remember that depth is always a good thing and that Dominic Moore is hardly such a crucial piece toward the future that he can’t be bumped out of the lineup if the kid is indeed ready to make an impact. If you prefer to keep Pouliot instead of Moore, that move can be accommodated as well.

Is it a perfect solution? No. But there isn’t a perfect solution to be found this summer, I’m afraid, and signing Grabovski might be the best way to improve the club in the short term without blowing the bank or sacrificing critical pieces to the puzzle.

18 thoughts on “Potential UFA target: Mikhail Grabovski

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 8:16 am
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    This looks like a very good possibility. I also believe that Boyle and Pouliott will price themselves off the team, but I do not see us re-signing Stralman either. THis would open up a few dollars and allow some kids, including Diaz to fight for the 6th spot.

    I like Grabovski a lot. I feel he is Boyle with a little less defensive ability but a lot more of an offensive threat.

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 8:22 am
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    I’m in the minority, but I’d rather go with Lindberg, or Miller as the 3rd line center, and have some cap space for a potential deal later in the season if we can improve the team????????

    Grabovski hasn’t set the world on fire in Torento, or Washington, what makes anyone think he will here?? Go with the kids, stay young, and hungry………

    • Jun 25, 2014 at 9:55 am
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      Problem with the idea of making a deal later in the year is that NY lacks trade assets now and still will lack them at the deadline. Cupboard is tapped

      • Jun 25, 2014 at 10:30 am
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        Right, that’s why you sign Grabo and if JT or Lindberg prove they are ready you trade Grabo at the deadline or you have a ton of depth.

        I like Stastny as well, but Grabovski might be an easier fit.

        • Jun 25, 2014 at 11:37 am
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          That’s not necessarily the best PR move. Sign a guy, then trade him.

          • Jun 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm
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            And that’s all a lot easier said than done

          • Jun 25, 2014 at 4:54 pm
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            I’m sure Grabovski would rather be dealt than sit in the press box if one of the young centers pass him by on the depth chart.

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 8:32 am
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    You really need to decide what type of center you want

    I would slate it like this

    Nash ????? Msl
    Kreider Stepan hagelin
    Pouliot brass zucc
    Rookie Moore rookie

    Does grabvoski fit in with those two at the top line?

    I’m starting to think that trading Nash or msl will be a necessity

    • Jun 25, 2014 at 8:50 am
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      There’s a path to signing Grabo, Stralman, AND Pouliot – by cutting some of the fat. I’m thinking specifically of Kevin Klein’s $2.9M, and to a lesser extent, Dorsett.

      In a vacuum, I like both of these players, and want them to stay. But with the cap crunch, their salary commitments are keeping up from locking up key core pieces.

      Klein in particular was brought in to move up to the 2nd pair following the ’14-’15 season, to replace Stralman’s production at a reasonable (and long-term) cost. But Stralman’s on-ice progression this year has meant that losing him leave a big hole in terms of impact – there would be a noticeable drop-off to Klein. So under the hypothetical that we retain Stral at north of $4M per year circumstances, Klein – as a 3rd pair D making $2.9M, on a team with four other defensemen making approximately $4M or higher – becomes a cap burden.

      So, my roundabout question is – is there a trade market for Klein? What could he reasonably expect to return?

      • Jun 25, 2014 at 10:22 am
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        Think you could move Klein for a mid-pick or prospect, but again, not an even return considering his value. I think it can likely be done even without trading him. Dorsett is one minor move that could help for sure

    • Jun 25, 2014 at 9:58 am
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      Trading either and getting a fair return would be next to impossible. Big step backwards

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 9:10 am
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    If Grabbo comes cheap, he’s a big boost. Here’s a #fancystats comparison of Grabbo, Stastny, Stepan, and Brassard: http://www.extraskater.com/players/dashboard?players=159,333,133,246

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 10:09 am
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    The rangers are a small team with out #22 verry small ,you need size from a center. But we should stay young

    • Jun 25, 2014 at 10:41 am
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      Size is useless if they can’t play the game.

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 11:41 am
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    Certainly a nice well thought offering. Two things concern me. You only have 20 players. AV prefers 23 actually, but with the reality of the cap he knows he will have to live with 22 or maybe 21. And injuries are a problem as well, forcing extra players. The other factor is that you want some unused cap space so that you can add salary at the deadline. Maybe a million under is enough, but I’m not sure.

    • Jun 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm
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      They’re all estimates, that’s plenty of room to operate. Gotta remember there’s always the LTIR option and cap dollars are really only counted by days on active roster, so you’re really just targeting a ballpark, never have to be totally precise when planning ahead

      • Jun 25, 2014 at 12:58 pm
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        I appreciate that. I just note that you made sacrifices and still ended up right at the line. It goes to show how hard Sather’s job is. If he follows your plan, he really needs to steal $100K here, $50K there — or else field a lesser team. I normally tend to think that if it’s between $3.2 million and $3.3 million, who cares.

  • Jun 25, 2014 at 11:57 am
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    After reading all the ideas and comments on this particular subject, I can only hope that Slats and his deputies both have similar thoughts as well as come up with some new ways to make all this work. Going back to the Stanley Cup finals must be the goal, and depth up the middle is a step in the right direction.

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