In the summer of 2016 the New York Rangers signed Michael Grabner to a two-year, $3.3 million contract that probably did not get a ton of attention. So far he has proven to be a tremendous addition to the team’s lineup and has already scored 40 goals in his 103 regular season games with the team.
That includes 13 through the first 27 games this season as he tries to show that his 27-goal output from a year ago was not a fluke.
What stands out about his goal total this season is that nearly half of them — six of the 13 — have been scored into an empty net.
He very nearly scored a seventh on Tuesday night in the Rangers’ 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins only to shoot wide of the net.
No player in the league this season has scored more than two empty net goals, while only 16 players have scored more than one. Only five teams have scored at least six empty net goals at this point.
So why is this worth pointing out? Because with still 55 games remaining in the 2017-18 season Grabner would seem to have a real shot at scoring more empty net goals in a single season than any player in NHL history.
At this point the NHL record is nine empty net goals set by Pavel Bure during the 1999-00 season when he was a member of the Florida Panthers.
You have to go all the way back to the 2000-01 season to find the last time anyone scored as many as six in a full season (Jaromir Jagr did it for the Pittsburgh Penguins).
This is also only the sixth time a player has scored at least six in a season. The rest of the list includes Bure, Jagr Wayne Gretzky (three different times), Keith Tkachuk (twice) and Mario Lemieux.
Only Bure (nine), Tkachuk (eight), and Lemieux (seven) have scored more than six.
There are a couple of ways to look at this. The first is that the empty net goal total is, obviously, inflating his goal total. But is that really a bad thing? After all there is a lot to be said for being a player that has that much trust from a coach to be out there in that situation protecting a late one-goal lead, and Grabner is obviously out there a ton. It would also seem to be a situation where Grabner’s speed would be an asset when it comes to getting to loose pucks, getting free and being able to put the game away.
A major, earth-shattering development if he does it? Not at all. Still a fun little thing to watch at the season progresses.