NEW YORK, N.Y. – Rookie sensation Michael Grabner, who led the Islanders with 34 goals after being claimed off waivers, is staying with New York after agreeing to a US$15 million, five-year deal that keeps him away from free agency.
The Islanders announced the agreement with the NHL rookie of the year finalist on Friday.
The 23-year-old right-winger topped NHL rookies in goals, and his 52 points in 76 games were fourth on the team and third among the league’s first-year players. Grabner was second in the NHL with six short-handed goals.
Grabner, who had a 20-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks during the 2009-10 season, was claimed off waivers by the Islanders from the Florida Panthers just before the start of 2010-11 season. In 96 career NHL games, Grabner has 39 goals and 24 assists.
His salary will increase each season. Grabner will earn $1 million next season, $2 million in the 2012-13 season, $3 million the following season, $4 million in 2014-15 and $5 million in the final year of the deal.
After being the Islanders’ only representative at NHL all-star weekend, when he was selected along with other rookies to take part in the skills competition, Grabner scored 10 goals during a hot streak in February in which he had a goal in six consecutive games.
Grabner won the league’s fastest skater competition during all-star weekend in Raleigh, N.C. He also posted a team-best plus-13 rating, and had the fewest penalty minutes (10) of any Islanders player who was in at least 21 games.
“Michael showed last season that he is an elite player in this league,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said in a statement. “In addition to providing speed and skill to our offence, he’s worked hard to elevate the defensive side of his game to become an all-around player.”
Plans were announced this week that would provide the Islanders with a new arena in several years, if the deal is approved by voters in August. The optimism surrounding the team helped Grabner make his decision to stay.
The Austrian native was eligible for restricted free agency on July 1.
“I’m really happy knowing I’ll be staying here on Long Island, especially after Wednesday’s news of a new arena,” Grabner said in a statement. “We have a lot of young, talented players who came together last year, and I am thrilled to have the chance to be a part of getting this team back to the playoffs.”
The Islanders missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season and for the fifth time in six seasons. New York (30-39-13) has finished last in the Atlantic Division four consecutive seasons, and had the fourth-fewest points in the NHL. The Islanders will have a top-five draft pick for the fourth year in a row.