With Viktor Stalberg headed to Carolina, the Rangers promptly replaced the Swede with another lightning fast skater in Michael Grabner for two years at a $1.6 million cap hit. Grabner got a huge deal from the Isles in 2011, but was traded as he was a healthy scratch regularly. He regained his footing with the Leafs, posting a solid 9-9-18 in 80 games.
Grabner and Stalberg have similar skill sets. They are both fast skaters, good on the penalty kill, and good on the forcheck. He’s not the 20-goal –or even 30-goal– guy he once was, but he’s still a solid depth forward for a team that needs speed. The fact that he’s on a decent contract helps too. The second year means he can be exposed in the expansion draft. That fact shouldn’t be overlooked.
When you compare Grabner and Stalberg, it’s clear that Stalberg is the better player. The Rangers downgraded here. Not by much, but certainly downgraded. They also paid $100k more per season. Is part of this because he was on the Leafs? Maybe. But if you’re expecting 30 goal Grabner, you’re not getting it. Perhaps Stalberg never wanted to come back to the Rangers. That’s always a possibility. But aside from adding the second year for expansion draft purposes, this is a puzzling swap to me.
Update: I may have hot take’d a bit too hard here. Last year appears to be an off year for Grabner. Here’s 2016/2015 side by side.
And here’s 2015/2014, side by side.
Toronto may have skewed his numbers. In this case, it appears he is right on par with Stalberg. I retract my previous statements about the signing.