Center Mikhail Grabovski, released onto the open market after his contract demands were too steep for the Capitals, has signed a four-year deal with the New York Islanders worth $20 million, his agent Gary Greenstin confirmed Wednesday.
Joining Grabovski with the Islanders will be his old friend Nikolai Kulemin, a former teammate with Toronto, who also signed a four-year deal ($16.75 million), according to Greenstin. During an interview in early June, Greenstin said Grabovski and Kulemin weren’t shopping around as a package deal, but they were planning to begin offseason training together in southern California.
Remaining in the Metropolitan Division, Grabovski received a significant raise, up from $3 million for a one-year deal with the Capitals after getting bought out by the Maple Leafs. Throughout the offseason, Washington general manager Brian MacLellan had maintained that the Capitals would explore returning Grabovski, but only if the price was right. After a free agency haul on Tuesday afternoon that included deals of $40.25 million to Matt Niskanen and $27.5 million to Brooks Orpik, Washington was left with $1.1 million in cap space.
MacLellan predicted that Grabovski, who remained unsigned as Tuesday sped along, would lower his contract demands and expressed remorse that the Capitals couldn’t sign him for a lesser price “two, three days ago.”
“It would’ve been more comfortable to make that signing,” MacLellan said. “I’m not sure where it’s going to end up. At some point we had to make a decision whether we wanted to go two defensemen or one defenseman, and we made the decision for two.”
Asked Wednesday whether he felt negotiations between Grabovski and the Capitals ever approached a re-signing, Greenstin characterized all the conversations between him and management as “just talk.”
Grabovski ultimately got $5 million per season, the rough value of what he was reported to be seeking. Factoring in his buyout from Toronto, per CapGeek, Grabovski’s annual haul will average $6.79 million per season. Without Grabovski, MacLellan said he might pursue another center — Grabovski filled the second-line spot that has been a revolving door for the Caps in recent season — but has also backed Evgeny Kuznetsov, Brooks Laich and Marcus Johansson as possible options.
“It’d be great to add another center,” MacLellan said. “If there’s an opportunity out there, we’ll pursue it.”
Last season, Grabovski led all Capitals forwards with a 51.0 percent Corsi-for in five-on-five situations and a 57.4 goals-for percentage while notching 35 points over 58 games.