Mikhail Grabovski signs with soccer team in Belarus

Pending UFA Mikhail Grabovski has signed with a third-tier soccer team in Belarus for the summer and would have already played for them had he not been injured at the IIHF World Championship, according to a report.

After a 13-goal, 35-point season in 58 games with Washington, Mikhail Grabovski will be a UFA this summer. He has favorable Corsi numbers, good speed, a decent offensive touch and is trustworthy in defensive situations (39 percent D-Zone starts in 2012-13 with Toronto, 32.2 percent D-Zone starts in 2013-14 with Washington).

So ‘Grabbo’ will be a nice fit down the middle for any number of teams looking for some center depth, but the first team he signed with this summer wasn’t even a hockey team – it was a third-tier soccer club in Belarus.

But this doesn’t mean he’s changing careers.

According to Russian Machine Never Breaks, TV channel Belarus-1 reported that Grabovski signed up with the Minsk Ravens in Belarus’ Second League. He apparently would have played for the club already, had it not been for an injury sustained at the IIHF World Championship last month.

Barring a soccer injury, Grabovski could be one of the first few UFAs scooped up after bidding opens on July 1 and could receive $4 million or more and will surely get term this time. But where does he fit best? He’s said his wife enjoys Washington and with Barry Trotz now in place as coach, the new direction will clearly be a firm defense. Does that gel with Grabovski’s desire? One reason he was no longer happy in Toronto was that Randy Carlyle leaned on him in a defensive role.

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With Carlyle still in place with the Leafs, a return to the Buds is highly unlikely for Grabovski. Nashville? The Islanders? Anaheim? The feisty, two-way Grabovski theoretically fits in with a lot of teams around the league. Other UFA centers who could be available this summer include Paul Stastny, Olli Jokinen, David Legwand, Derek Roy, Dave Bolland and Derek Roy – Grabovski ranks pretty high on that list.

Wherever he ends up, he’ll now be the best darn Sewer Ball player on the team.

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