Mikhail Grabovski’s value is tough to define

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The New York Islanders took underrated forward Frans Nielsen off the unrestricted free agent market today, so it only makes sense that a somewhat similar* player was the topic of discussion elsewhere.

It’s strange to define a Toronto Maple Leafs center as underexposed, but if any player fits that description, it’s Mikhail Grabovski. The Globe & Mail’s James Mirtle believes that the versatile Russian pivot’s value might be tough to determine as contract talks loom.

Fellow Leafs center Tyler Bozak gave Grabovski rave reviews.

“I don’t think I can do half the stuff he does,” Bozak said. “Those Russian guys have some pretty nice tricks up their sleeves. He’s got some moves, and he’s got a lot of patience. It’s just fun to watch guys like that.”

Grabovski has been a productive producer even though he hasn’t enjoyed the luxury of lining up with prolific wingers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Mirtle points out that he’s tied for eighth among centers when it comes to scoring goals with 47 in 128 games, placing him ahead of high-wattage stars such as Eric Staal and Anze Kopitar.

The word is that the best comparables for Grabovski are Tomas Plekanec ($5 million cap hit) and Patrice Bergeron (also $5 million).

Such a price tag might be tough for Brian Burke and the Leafs to stomach, but could he be worth it? If not, what kind of deal would be appropriate? Share your thoughts in the comments.

* – Grabovski is far more explosive, mind you, but both seem to slip under the radar to some extent.