As part of his background research into Mikhail Grabovski, who the Capitals signed to a one-year $3 million contract last week, General Manager George McPhee reached out to one of his mentors for an honest opinion on the 29-year-old center.
“We exchanged emails and I told him what I thought,” former Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said Monday at KCI, where he is attending the U.S. Olympic orientation camp as USA Hockey’s director of player personnel. “I think Mikhail Grabovski is just a class act, he’s a warrior on the ice, he’s a gym rat off the ice. His preparation is unbelievable, he’s very serious about being a good hockey player and he was a joy while I had him in Toronto. He was a joy to have on the team.”
It was during Burke’s tenure as general manager in Toronto that Grabovski had his best career statistical seasons, and it was Burke who signed Grabovski to the five-year, $27.5 million contract that the Maple Leafs opted to buy out this summer.
The veteran manager believes that Grabovski will be an important asset for the Capitals, and that he will mesh well with Coach Adam Oates.
“I think Adam Oates, he doesn’t have a big body of work yet but I think he’s an excellent coach,” Burke said. “I think the players trust him and like him, I think that’s the kind of coach – Randy Carlyle is a great coach but he didn’t see eye to eye with Grabo and I think Adam probably will. I think it will be a good change for him.”
Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk, also taking part in the U.S. Olympic orientation camp, skated on a line with Grabovski frequently and is glad to see his former teammate have an opportunity for a fresh start.
“I loved having him in the room,” van Riemsdyk said. “On the ice I always thought he was a good player, I liked having him on my line and I had some good chemistry with him and I think he’ll fit in great here with all the great offensive players [the Capitals] have.”