The New York Islanders are in a bit of a pinch with the salary cap. Closer to the cap ceiling than the cap floor. Naturally, attentions turn to the $5 million contract on the books for the often injured Mikhail Grabovski. But Grabovski has his strengths.
The New York Islanders have a few players that make $5 million or more against the cap. Johnny Boychuk tops the list at $6 million, captain John Tavares, Nick Leddy, and newcomer Andrew Ladd all have a $5.5 million cap hit each. And then there’s Mikhail Grabovski at $5 million.
This list of five players accounts for 40% of the Isles current $68.7 million cap hit. So as we get closer to that cap ceiling of $73 million fans naturally try to find inefficiencies in the roster. And that search invariably brings them to Mikhail Grabovski.
To be fair, the spotlight that finds itself at the former Maple Leafs feet isn’t without merit. Grabovski was part of a big free agent splash from GM Garth Snow in 2014 when he signed both Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to four-year deals worth a combined $36.75 million.
Why Grabovski’s Getting Heat
Since signing his four-year deal back in 2014 Grabovski has missed significant time due to injury. Over the two years, Grabovski has missed a total of 55 games. A third of his time here has been spent not playing.
Then add the fact that Grabovski hasn’t really lit the lamp either. In those same two years, he’s produced 19 and 25 points respectively. Nothing to write home about, and certainly underwhelming for a player on the cap for $5 million a year.
Grabovski is a former 58 point producer when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It’s just that it seems Snow and the Islanders fell victim to a fortunate situation for Grabovski during his short stint with the Washington Capitals.
After being bought out by the Maple Leafs in 2013-14, Grabovski subsequently signed with the Capitals for one-year. Playing for the Caps Grabovski posted 35 points after a previously disappointing 16 points the year before.
Production wise, we’re definitely seeing the Grabovski of 2013-14 rather than the 2014-15 one we thought we were getting.
So What Do We Do?
Obviously trying to trade Grabovski would be great, but that’s not looking like a possible scenario. Keeping Grabovski is growing increasingly likely as the summer progresses towards the fall and we get closer to October.
Some of you might bemoan this because of the factors I’ve already introduced, namely, injury woes and production, or the lack-thereof. But Grabovski is a strong possession player.
Over the last two seasons, Grabovski ranks seventh in terms of iCorsi/60 for all Islanders forwards. Then consider his positive Corsi effect on his linemates over the same period of time.
From 2014-16 Grabovski spent much of his time playing alongside Nikolai Kulemin (535 on-ice minutes with) and Ryan Strome (484 on-ice minutes with). When together with Grabovski, their respective Corsi percentages are: 52% for Kulemin and 53.4% for Strome. Away from Grabovski, the pair’s Corsi percentages fall to 49.2% and 51.2%, respectively.
[Corsi stats taken from: stats.hockeyanalysis.com]
His effect on possession is clear. Is this necessarily worth $5 million per year over the next two years? Not at all. But if you have to bite the bullet on a bad contract it’s not too bad to have a guy who can keep the puck out of your zone.