Photo: Chris Gordon
I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Mikhail Grabovski is now a former Capital. Wednesday afternoon, Grabo signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Metropolitan rival New York Islanders. The talented center will be on Long Island until he’s 34.
Grabo’s deal is one year shorter and worth $7.5 million less than the contract Brooks Orpik signed with the Caps. I can’t wait to see how well that works out.
Last night, while discussing his new toys, Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan admitted that he chose a second defenseman over re-signing Grabovski because the Belorussian was unrealistic with his contract demands.
“I’m not sure where [Grabovski's contract] is going to end up,” MacLellan told the gathered media. “At some point we had to make a decision whether we wanted to go two defensemen or one defenseman, and we made the decision for two.”
According to MacLellan, Grabovski was forced to lower his number on Wednesday. He also expressed disappointment that Grabo couldn’t present the team with a more realistic offer “two, three days ago.”
The Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt spoke to Grabovski’s agent Gary Greenstin on Wednesday, and Grabo’s rep said that he never thought the Capitals were very serious in retaining their client.
Asked Grabovski's agent if he ever felt they were ever close with the #Caps on a deal. Said discussions were all "just talk," not serious.
— Alex Prewitt (@alex_prewitt) July 2, 2014
Without Grabovski, the Capitals, with only $1.2 million left in cap space, must get creative to fill their not-at-all-new second line center hole. They can choose to find a cheaper option on the free market, make a trade (they have a lot of veteran options to deal at forward), or look internally.
A few weeks ago, MacLellan pointed at Brooks Laich, Marcus Johansson, and prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov as potential replacements, though each are not optimal solutions. Laich is injury prone and more of a defensive specialist. Johansson has played wing lately and is unproven. Kuznetsov has the offensive ability to handle the new position, but is very poor at face-offs and is still learning the North American game.
In the end, Grabovski will be a difficult player to replace. He finished the year as the team’s best possession player at forward and helped bring offense to both the second and third lines. He also had a ton of chemistry with Alex Ovechkin when he played with him. I’ll even go one further: if Grabovski would not have suffered an ankle injury mid-way through the season, his presence alone likely would have pushed the Capitals into the playoffs.
Instead, now he’s gone. It will be interesting to see what the team does to respond to his loss.