A typical low-risk signing by Islanders general manager Garth Snow back in 2010 paid surprisingly high dividends, as a player who couldn’t even make the Florida Panthers’ squad in training camp scored 34 goals in his first full year in the NHL. The young kid was known for his tremendous speed on the ice, which led to many a breakaway and a multitude of chances for both him and members of his fellow New York Islanders.
Speedster Michael Grabner was everything the Islanders could have asked for upon his acquisition. A goal-scorer, a dynamic skater, and a game-changer all meshed into one man were something fans of the Islanders (and the entire NHL, at that) marveled at.
Moving forward, Grabner, who did consistently play well in his first season with the Isles, has not been able to model such play. His goal totals have been decent when you look at them, scoring 20 goals in his 2nd year in Long Island during a regression season, but did rebound nicely in the truncated 2013 season with 16 goals in 45 games, helping the team reach the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
After the encouraging rebound season, Grabner came back with a very sluggish 2013-14. At this point, he has scored 9 goals this season, only scoring in 7 different games. He has looked lost and disgruntled at times; certainly not where he should be, given his goal-scoring talent.
And with the Islanders certainly playing the role of “sellers” at the March 5th trade deadline, it’s reasonable to think that Grabner could potentially be on the move. It’s already been speculated and lightly reported by others that there were potential other additions to pending free agent Thomas Vanek in trade talks, and there’s certainly reason to think Michael Grabner could be that added chip.
However, the question of Michael Grabner actually being traded is not what is primarily focused on. More importantly, should Michael Grabner be traded? Can the team get more out of Grabner by shipping him elsewhere?
It’s certainly a touchy area. He has the ability to score 35 goals in a season, granted he could score more on his breakaways rather than missing the net or shooting the puck right at the goaltender. His skill and ability to make a play is certainly there, and his shot is quick enough to be a real goal-scoring threat in the NHL if he can use it to his advantage.
However, Grabner has shown that scoring that many goals may never happen, as he has failed to produce at the rate he could (and should) be through the last two and a half seasons. He has been consistently inconsistent during this time frame, and has been terrible disappointing, to put it bluntly.
The 26 year-old is still a work-in-progress, but with such little needed to be fixed with him, and hardly any change in his production rate at all, one would have legitimate reason to think Grabner’s at a point where, as many would say “it is what it is”.
So with that said, we go back to the burning question, should the Islanders wait on Michael Grabner to see if he blossoms, or should they ship him at the deadline?
Weighing the possibilities, it’s worth waiting to see if Grabner can fully develop into what he could be, and not ship him away for an okay return. Grabner probably wouldn’t even garner a first round pick in the aforementioned scenario.
Getting an established NHL player for him in a package also seems unlikely, as Garth Snow has said that he is looking for draft picks and prospects in a “three asset deal” from teams around the league for pending UFA’s Thomas Vanek and Andrew MacDonald.
With the chance that Grabner does blossom into what he has the potential to be, it surely is not worth a draft pick or another prospect to add to the over-populated boat that the Islanders have assembled (not to say that’s a bad thing). They have enough as it is, and it doesn’t look like the Islanders will be getting any proven, veteran NHL’ers in any possible return.
And even if Grabner doesn’t prove to be a dynamic goal scorer, he could still serve as a solid bottom six member, as he did last season. His physicality has increased this year, and he could serve as a 20 goal scorer per year, as well as a physical presence and a solid penalty killer, both of which he is capable of.
Looking ahead, the Islanders don’t necessarily need Grabner to score a high amount of goals per season. They have plenty of offensive talent, and have even more in the pipeline waiting to come up. His ”void” would surely be filled with current providers such as John Tavares and Kyle Okposo, along with upcoming bright spots in the organization, like Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, and Anders Lee.
I still view Michael Grabner as a “wait and see” player, and hopefully with patience, we will see the results. But even if we don’t see a high scoring, prolific NHL forward, the Islanders surely would have a solid two-way play in Grabner, and he has proven that he does have value to the team he is playing for.
I want to know what you, the reader, thinks about the situation. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below, or give me a shout on twitter. And of course, thanks for reading.