On the second day of free agency the New York Islanders spent money, lots of it, on top-6 scoring.
Mikhail Grabovski was signed to a 4 year, $20mil contract while Nikolai Kulemin accepted 4 years, $16.75mil.
A center, Grabovski is a better than 50% face off man who controls the puck like few others. He is a second line center who will set up his wingers well, and his 20A/50P+ projection should pair well with Ryan Strome, Anders Lee, and once again teammate Nikolai Kulemin . Though he has a track record that includes walking out on his team and publicly butting heads with coaches, Grabovski was a solid citizen with Washington last year and can flourish on a team where he will be a another piece at center rather than THE piece at center.
Nikolai Kulemin has been a 30-goal scorer in this league and brings a minimum of 30-points to the second line. His best season (Toronto 2010-11, 30-27-57) was riding shotgun with Grabovski and the hope is they can find that again with the Islanders.
The knock against both is the stereotypical “enigmatic Russian who doesn’t try or care.” Thanks, Don Cherry, but these are mature players. Once-again assistant coach Greg Cronin coached both men in Toronto, and it’s hard to believe he’d vouch for players with poor character traits. Then again, what might Grabovski say about Capuano if he once called Randy Carlyle, a Stanley Cup winning coach, “a _____ idiot”? That’ll be fun.
The reason these deals are important is that name-brand players see a bright future for the Islanders. Yes, the checks are huge, but that’s to be expected in the opening days of free agency. Two days into a 103-day off season Garth Snow has added a highly rearded backup goaltender, some minor blue line depth, and a plethora of forwards for lines two through four. All that’s left to do is snag one or two top-3 defensemen.
As we saw today, when Garth looks like he’s down he ends up on top.
S*** on that.