TORONTO — Although Washington Capitals GM George McPhee is still awaiting confirmation that unrestricted free agent Mikhail Grabovski has accepted the club’s contract offer, current Caps players are already thrilled by the prospect of landing the three-time 20-goal scorer.
“That’d be awesome. I think Washington needs a guy like that. I grew up watching him in Toronto. He’s a really special player who can definitely put the puck in the net,” said 19-year-old Capitals winger Tom Wilson, upon hearing word of the Belarusian report Thursday. “I’m excited to watch him.”
Grabovski, a native of Belarus, had four seasons remaining on his five-year, $27.5-million contract with Toronto when the Maple Leafs used a compliance buyout on him in July. The centreman departed with some salty words for head coach Randy Carlyle, who, according to Grabovski, did not use the speedy forward in offensive situations. Scoring just nine goals and seven assists despite playing in all 48 games for the Leafs in 2012-13, Grabovski struggled through his least-productive season since joining the franchise (via Montreal) in 2008.
Capitals coach Adam Oates would be expected to give the talented European more time in the opponents’ zone and help him realize his 25-goal potential. Under Oates in 2012-13, Alex Ovechkin enjoyed a comeback season in which he racked up points at a better rate than in 2011-12 and captured the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.
Mike Ribeiro, who signed to the Phoenix Coyotes amidst the summer’s free-agent frenzy, scored 13 goals and added 36 assists in 48 games for the Caps last season. But after losing its top-scoring centreman to free agency, Washington did nothing — until now? — to shore up its depth down the middle.
“Honestly, we didn’t do a whole lot (this offseason). We lost Mike Ribeiro. That was a big loss for our power-play,” veteran Capitals forward Joel Ward said Thursday while in Toronto for the BioSteel Camp.
Ward, who grew up in Leafs Nation, was pleasantly surprised when learning of the Grabovski report.
“Being this is my hometown, I tend to watch the Leafs a little bit. He’s a great player,” Ward said. “That’s pretty cool. I’ve seen him play a few times, and he works extremely hard, goes into some good areas, and he’s got the skill-set to score big goals. I’d love to welcome him to the team and hopefully he’ll get us to the next level.”