In a move that caught a lot of people by surprise, the Toronto Maple Leafs have decided to use their second and final compliance buyout on center Mikhail Grabovski.
Grabovski had four years remaining on his five-year contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million. The buyout will cost the Leafs $14.3 million over eight years.
“I would like to thank Mikhail for his contributions with the Leafs over the past five seasons,” said Toronto general manager Dave Nonis in a release. “This was not an easy decision to make as Mikhail made numerous contributions to our hockey club. This is a roster move that will give us salary cap flexibility moving forward.”
The buyout comes after Grabovski suffered through a frustrating season offensively, scoring just nine times with seven assists in 48 games. In 2010-11, he had a career-high 29 goals. In 2011-12, he scored 23 times.
One possible explanation for the 29-year-old’s fall in production is that he was used in more of a defensive role in 2013, as the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle explains.
Whatever the rationale for cutting ties with Grabovski, the move does open up a significant amount of cap space for Nonis, who still has to negotiate deals with restricted free agents like Jonathan Bernier, Nazem Kadri, Carl Gunnarsson, and Cody Franson.
It could also mean the return of center Tyler Bozak, an unrestricted free agent, and/or the pursuit of UFAs like David Clarkson or Stephen Weiss.
As for Grabovski, with a dearth of quality centers on the market, he’ll receive no shortage of attention in free agency.