The Capitals added what they hope will be a key piece to their lineup on Friday with the signing of 29-year-old center Mikhail Grabovski.
Grabovski, who had 16 points (9 goals, 7 assists) with Toronto last season, signed a one-year deal worth $3 million, the team announced. Washington was in need of a second-line center after losing Mike Ribeiro in free agency.
“[Grabovski is] a really well-rounded player that will bring a lot of speed to our lineup, bring some offense,” Caps general manager George McPhee said. “He’s pretty solid on faceoffs, a good penalty killer, can play the power play and five-on-five. This should make us a better hockey club.”
Grabovski, a 5-11, 183-pounder, had his best season in 2010-11 when he had 29 goals and 29 assists. He’s played 367 career games and has 94 goals and 123 assists.
From Minsk, Belarus, Grabovski was chosen in the fifth round by Montreal in the 2004 draft.
McPhee wasn’t confident that Grabovski was a fit when free agency opened on July 5. He was primarily a third line center by the end of the year in Toronto and expressed extreme displeasure about that in public comments following the surprise decision to buy out the final four years and $21.5 million of his last deal.
But according to McPhee, with as much as $180 million fewer dollars on the NHL market this season thanks to the shrinking salary cap following last year’s lockout, Washington could afford to wait. A dozen teams expressed interest in Grabovski, said his agent, Gary Greenstin, on Friday.
“There’s just not a liquidity out there, not a lot of opportunities for players right now,” McPhee said.
In the end, when it became clear a one-year contract to rebuild his value was his best bet, Grabovski liked the fit with the Caps most. A 90-minute meeting with coach Adam Oates in the Los Angeles area last helped sell Grabovski on Washington’s style of play and how it would use him.
Grabovski’s addition means that forward Brooks Laich, named the second line center by McPhee last month, can revert back to his jack-of-all-trades roll as a top-six winger or a third line center and a special teams stalwart.
“On July 8 [Laich] was our No. 2 center,” McPhee said. “But things change over the course of the summer. Really having Brooks, knowing he could play that position, allowed us to do this deal. We could take our time.”