I like Grabovski. He is probably my favourite forward on the Leafs at the moment. But liking him has nothing to do with sound hockey decisions and this contract is not a sound hockey decision.
Grabo may very well be the best all-around forward on the Toronto Maple Leafs, but that is damning with faint praise. He is a #2 centre and frankly, he isn’t even an elite #2. (An elite #2 would be someone who merits regular consideration as a possible #1.) Sure, the Leafs still don’t have a #1 centre, but is that any reason to overpay someone who isn’t a #1? Look how well that worked out with Connelly.
So Grabo is a #2 centre: a top 6 forward, a top 10 skater, etc. As of this contract, he is now getting paid the 2nd most on the team behind Phaneuf. It is a raise of nearly 100%. Now Grabovski has certainly performed well, but I would argue that he has performed somewhat better than you would expect a player making slightly less than $3 mil / season to perform, not doubly better.
And then there is the length. Yes, Grabo hasn’t been in the league long, but has anyone checked his age lately? He is 28. He will be 33 at the end of this deal. Will he be putting up 50-60 points per year at 32 or 33? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s pretty tough to know because compared to most NHL players, Grabo is in his prime right now. I.e. he probably will be putting up more like 40 points in his early 30s, but it’s a gamble. I’m just not sure how smart it is.
Because the thing is Grabo does have a little bit of an injury history and he also plays that style that does incur the odd injury. So couldn’t it be a little shorter?
But the length would not be as much of an issue if the obvious per year discrepancy didn’t exist. Grabo is being paid like he is the most important forward on the team. Maybe he is, but he is the most important forward on a 12th place team which needs to improve somehow this summer because, as usual, they are not bad enough to improve through the draft.
So how do they improve this summer? Well by signing and trading. But currently they have about $7.6 million in cap space this summer and 5 roster spots unaccounted for. That means some RFAs probably aren’t sticking around unless Burke makes a trade.
So essentially what this deal does is it forces Burke to make a trade. That could be a good thing. He has shown that he can sometimes make a good deal. He has also shown that he can make the odd bad deal. But he has to deal. Otherwise the 2012-13 Leafs will be pretty much the same team as this one. I know I’m excited.