Free-agent center Mikhail Grabovski has reportedly narrowed his choice of teams to three.
Which three teams? That we don’t know — except that Winnipeg apparently isn’t one of them.
The question we’re asking here is, should Washington be interested?
According to a good number of Capitals fans, the answer is a resounding yes.
Washington, of course, did not re-sign Mike Ribeiro this summer; he ended up with the Coyotes.
Ribeiro had 13 goals and 36 assists during the regular season. His 49 points were the second most, behind Alex Ovechkin‘s 56, on the Caps and tied for 10th overall in the NHL.
So you’ll excuse Caps fans for wondering/worrying how their team will do without him.
According to Washington general manager George McPhee, however, the team already has Ribeiro’s second-line center replacement in Brooks Laich.
Injuries limited Laich to just nine regular-season games in 2013, but the 30-year-old has put up good offensive numbers in the past. His best season was 2009-10, when he scored 25 goals and added 34 assists in 78 games.
“You need a good two-way player to play there,” said McPhee, referring to Laich.
But Grabovski is also a decent two-way player. In fact, one of the reasons his offensive numbers were down in Toronto this year was that he was given a decidedly more defensive role by Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle, as described here by the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle.
Whether the Caps can afford Grabovski depends on his asking price. According to CapGeek, they’ve got almost $6 million in cap space with 20 players signed. (Restricted free agent Marcus Johansson still needs a contract, too.)
Bought out by the Leafs, Grabovski will be paid $14.3 million over the next eight years by Toronto, plus what he earns on a new contract. If he’s serious about wanting to “win something,” he could do worse than signing with the Caps. (For example, he could sign with the Calgary Flames.)
It’s possible McPhee is hoping to get Grabovski for a bargain, a la the contract he convinced Tomas Vokoun to sign in the summer of 2011.
McPhee may choose instead to go into the season with a bit of cap space.
“It’s never a bad thing to have,” he said recently. “We don’t know what develops, but it’s nice to have some flexibility to do things if we have to.”
Again, so much depends on Grabovski’s asking price. If it’s reasonable, the Caps make sense as destination. If not, they’ll likely pass and hope Laich can stay healthy and Johansson and/or Mathieu Perreault can take their games to another level.