Three and a half months and 47 games into Mikhail Grabovski’s tenure with the Washington Capitals, there isn’t much not to like about how the center has fit in with the team.
He’s the third-leading scorer on the roster with 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) behind only Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, skating nearly a minute more (16:19) than he did in Toronto last season, played on each of the top three lines and found success with numerous different teammates.
“I’m very comfortable here, except I still think I can play better, our team can play better and win the games, that’s more frustrating,” said Grabovski, who agreed to a one-year, $3 million contract last summer after he was bought out by the Maple Leafs. “I feel like I can do better here because I’m more comfortable here.”
So should the Capitals keep Grabovski in the fold?
Last week Grabovski’s agent, Gary Greenstin, said that he has already begun conversations with the Capitals about a contract extension for the center and went so far as to say “Most likely he’ll stay here.”
Grabovski, who will turn 30 on Jan. 31, likes both the team and living environment in Washington as does his wife and two young children. Both for their sake and his desire to help a team compete in the postseason, Grabovski said he would prefer to not bounce around to several different organizations. The Capitals are the third team Grabovski has played for in his career after a five-year stop in Toronto and two years in Montreal.
“I want to play in playoff, I want to win Stanley Cup. For me team doesn’t build in one year. It’s more a long period of time to get there,” Grabovski said. “This team has played together [for several years], I’m just new guy. I’m just happy to help; I want to be consistent and stay with one team and help them.”
While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what any player could command as an unrestricted free agent, the market for experienced playmaking centers in July is always an inflated one.
Toronto bought Grabovski out of the final four years of a five-year, $27.5 million deal with an annual salary cap hit of $5.5 million. Going forward, considering that the salary cap is expected to rise to $71.1 million next season it wouldn’t be surprising for Grabovski to land a contract in the neighborhood of a $5 million annual cap hit once again. (Before you think that might be too high, consider that Mike Ribeiro signed a five-year $25 million deal with Phoenix last summer and was three years older than Grabovski will be as a UFA.)
According to Capgeek, Washington has 22 players under contract for next season and just under $62 million committed to that group. If the salary cap increases as much as is anticipated or more, there would be room to offer a competitive contract to Grabovski even before other moves are made. At the very least, it would allow Washington to have a consistent presence at second line center for the first time since 2009.
For his part, Grabovski says he would like to stay with the Capitals but he’s focused on the task at hand with the team.
“Sure, not a question,” he said. “The question is about us winning games now.”