Even with the consistent silence from the Capitals front office this summer, Troy Brouwer had an inkling that the team would add at least one new face before training camp opened.
That move came Friday when Washington signed unrestricted free agent center Mikhail Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million deal.
“I’ve had conversations with [General Manager] George [McPhee] and Oatesy over the course of the summer about what we’re trying to do and the direction the team is going, so I kind of had an idea that something was going to happen,” Brouwer said Friday at KCI, where a handful of players are working out regularly in preparation for training camp. “I didn’t know exactly what, I didn’t know exactly who but I like this addition. I think it’s going to be good for our team and filling a very crucial spot in the lineup.”
When the Capitals were unable to re-sign Mike Ribeiro, it left a vacancy at center that was difficult to ignore. Washington has filled that role with internal candidates before, but Ribeiro’s presence last season showed that the benefit of center depth, specifically those with top-six ability cannot be underestimated.
Bringing in Grabovski, who was an unexpected free agent after Toronto used a compliance buyout on him, gives the Capitals that depth and the lineup options that come with it. Not to mention the presence of a player who has proven he can be a 50-point producer when in a top-six role.
“It’s great. I think we needed him,” Nicklas Backstrom said Friday at KCI. “He’s been really good in Toronto, I think, so we’re excited to have him come in. He’s a great player, he brings a lot of speed and skill. He can score goals too. He’s a smart centerman that hopefully will do a lot for this team.”
Brouwer may very well wind up playing alongside Grabovski on the second line but admits he doesn’t know too much about his new teammate. He believes that the Capitals will benefit from Grabovski’s inclusion, though, and from bringing in a player capable of stepping into that second line center role.
“To have another skilled player in there as the second-line center, that position is really tough to fill,” Brouwer said. “We have guys that probably could do it but I think with Grabovski we have that skilled play making centerman, who has the ability to make players around him better. That’s what you’re looking for.”