This past Saturday, the Washington Capitals held their annual Red Rocker tryouts....
Grabovski’s Free, Should We Grab Him?
Mikhail Grabovski (Photo Credit: Bridget Samuels)
When it comes to free agency and buyouts, there have been some expected and unexpected moves (the Canucks opting to keep Luongo over Schneider, for example). In contrast, the Capitals have been fairly quiet so far when it comes to the business of speculation. That fact shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the loyal Caps fan – GM George McPhee is notorious for his silent-but-deadly tactics, and we can only hope that he has another trick up his sleeve.
One of the major issues facing the Caps is the gap that exists in the lineup at the position of centre. The team’s primary centres are Nicklas Backstrom, Brooks Laich, and Marcus Johansson (contract pending). Now, Backstrom can hold a line, no question. But with Laich more suited to a more gritty role such as an auxiliary/wing, and Johansson not-quite fitting the title of second line centre, an upgrade may be necessary.
For this fan, the name that should be coming up on everyone’s radar after today’s (somewhat) surprising buyout from the Leafs, creative centre Mikhail Grabovski. Grabovski (or “Grabo”) spent most of his time in Toronto on the second line, generating plays. He has the potential to be a great fit for the Capitals, although the price attached to his current worth could be a deal-breaker. Grabo’s 5.5M is more than the Capitals were paying Ribeiro last season, but the 29 year old Belarusian has the potential for a greater offensive upside that could make it worth stepping away from Ribeiro’s expected salary raise.
To be fair, Grabovski’s nine goals and sixteen points during the lockout-shortened season leave a lot to be desired. But it’s important to note that he was placed in a defensive role, and skating shortened minutes (something Caps fans can relate to). A full-season performance alongside the Washington’s expected 2013-14 lineup could see him rebound substantially, with the potential to surpass his performance with the Leafs in previous seasons. Grabovski has consistently shown his ability to continue developing during his tenure with Toronto, and his skilled play-making is an element that the Caps could sorely use.
Though the Capitals have other vulnerabilities to think about (and a tight cap situation to go with it), developing a stronger two-lined system would be a good start in structuring a run for the cup, while also allowing Adam Oates more freedom to experiment with his line-making schemes.