The passing of the trade deadline means the buzz over this year’s possible swaps has died down, which can mean only one thing: it’s time to ramp up the speculation over this summer’s crop of free agents.
Let’s start with Toronto Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski, who is eligible for unrestricted free agent status July 1.
Leading up to the trade deadline, there was speculation Leafs GM Brian Burke would shop Grabovski if he weren’t re-signed by deadline day. It was believed one team had first offered Burke a second round pick, then bumped its offer up to a first-rounder.
Burke gruffly rejected any suggestion he would peddle Grabovski, repeating his intent to re-sign the 28-year-old. It’s believed term is the sticking point between the two sides, as Burke is not a fan of deals stretching beyond five years.
Concerns Grabovski might bolt for free agency this summer could prove unfounded. Gary Greenstin, who represents Grabovski, recently told TSN’s Mark Masters he would be in Toronto next week, hinting at that time he might have some news. Meanwhile, Sportsnet 590’s Greg Brady reported hearing a new deal for Grabovski could be completed by the end of March.
It remains to be seen what it would cost the Leafs to re-sign Grabovski, who is coming off a three-year contract with an average annual cap hit of $2.9 million.
‘Grabbo’ been frequently compared to Montreal Canadiens center Tomas Plekanec, currently in the second year of a six-year deal at an average of $5 million per.
Plekanec had seasons of 69 and 70 points prior to signing his current deal. Grabovski, currently on pace for 54 points, has yet to reach 60 points in a campaign.
Using the comparable, Burke might be able to bargain it down to $4.5 million per, pushing the Leafs payroll for 2012-13 to more than $55.7 million invested in 17 players (barring any rollback in salaries under the next collective bargaining agreement). As for term, it would be a surprise if Burke signs off on anything longer than a five-year pact.
Whatever the numbers, it appears Grabovski and the Leafs are closing in on a lucrative, long-term deal to keep him in Toronto.
Once that’s out of the way, Burke can shift his focus toward restricted free agents like defenseman Cody Franson and right winger Nikolai Kulemin, finding a consistent quality goaltender the Leafs have lacked for years and adding secondary scoring depth.
Burke could cast his eyes toward one of his former teams, the Vancouver Canucks, for goaltending help and join what will be the long list of suitors for RFA Cory Schneider.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.