Belleville, Ontario – Mikhail Grabovski is still waiting for his visa situation to be sorted out but on Saturday he made the nearly two-hour trip from Toronto so he could finally meet some of his new teammates.
The 29-year-old center took part in the Capitals’ morning skate at Yardmen Arena here ahead of their preseason opener against the Winnipeg Jets. Grabovski won’t play, though, and three weeks after he signed his one-year, $3 million deal it’s still uncertain when he will be able to move to Washington.
“You know, a little bit frustrated but I’m not worried because I know they make for me visa, so everything gonna be fine,” said Grabovski, who has a meeting with the U.S. consulate on Monday that the Capitals hope will be the final hurdle before he can join them full time. “I’m just excited to see the guys today. I’m very happy to be here.”
Grabovski made the transition to a new team once before when he was traded from Montreal to Toronto in July 2008, but becoming fully immersed into a dressing room culture takes time. The earlier the process can start, the better.
Coach Adam Oates appreciates the challenges of making the transition to a new team, having played for seven clubs during his NHL career.
“Obviously a very difficult situation and he hasn’t been able to skate for a few days, so just to get him to come up here and meet the guys was probably the best part of it,” Oates said. “New scenery, you want to get off to a great start and a visa issue kind of derails you. So I’m sure he’s very frustrated with that. You’ve got to feel for him.”
Star winger Alex Ovechkin is also doing what he can to help Grabovski assimilate to the Capitals, texting the center and telling him what to expect once he is finally able to cross the border.
“It’s nice to [have] him here right now,” Ovechkin said. “I think he’s very excited and he feel kind of, when you come to new group, little shaky, but I’m sure the guys and myself are going to treat him well and he’s going to feel much better.”
Grabovski is expected to step into the role of second-line center that was vacated by Mike Ribeiro’s departure as a free agent this offseason. He’s shown he can excel when in a top-six role – Grabovski recorded two 50-point seasons that spot for the Maple Leafs – and the Capitals are eager to see him develop chemistry with his new teammates.
While that’s all on hold for now and prospect Chandler Stephenson is currently skating alongside Troy Brouwer filling Grabovski’s spot, Oates said the center’s delayed arrival to training camp shouldn’t impact the team’s overall progress.
“So as long as it gets done in the next few days,” Oates said, “He’ll still get five games in, which is kind of what the plan was for everybody.”
The postponement hasn’t been all bad for Grabovski. He’s has a Toronto and has been able to spend a little more time with his family before heading off for the season.
“I train myself and just work out [in the] gym and just spend time with my family. I kind of lost days in the summer, so it was a little bit [of a] gift to my family,” said Grabovski, who got married in early July. “It’s not tough. I stuck in Toronto, so it’s kind of my home town. It’s just tough to come to a new team and new partners. But after first ice, everything’s good right now and I feel comfortable.”