The Toronto Maple Leafs have bought out center Mikhail Grabovski, one year into a $27 million, 5-year contract.
It follows the buyout of another Brian Burke signing, Mike Komisarek, on Wednesday.
Grabovski struggled into 2012-13 season offensively, as he was used mainly as a shutdown center by coach Randy Carlyle. The 29-year-old Belarus native scored only nine goals and 16 points, a significant drop off from his previous two seasons under then head coach Ron Wilson.
The buyout may be a sign that the Leafs are preparing to make room for a free agent signing such as Mike Ribeiro or Stephen Weiss, or for the resigning of Tyler Bozak.
Grabovski could be a frustrating player to watch for Maple Leaf fans. Undoubtedly gifted with soft hands and a capable scorer when on his game, his tendency to try do everything himself resulted in frequent turnovers. Perhaps as a result, Grabovski’s skill in the faceoff zone was utilised in a more defensive role by Randy Carlyle, who liked to match Grabovski against opposing top lines.
Nevertheless, while Grabovski’s scoring touch dimished last season, his maturity and strength of character improved markedly during his five years in Toronto. Cast out by the Montreal Canadiens in 2008 after a series of incidents – including flying to Los Angeles to meet with his agent after being a healthy scratch for a game against the Phoenix Coyotes in 2008 – his time in Toronto was characterised by a sharp increase in commitment and professionalism.
The volatile temperament that got him into trouble in Montreal still occasionally reared its head – bar fights, finger bites and linesman-shoving all made an appearance – but he was admired for his grit and determination in this year’s playoffs and accepting the role that was given to him.
However, Nonis has evidently concluded that Grabovski’s cap hit was too much to take for such an offensively reliable player. Some significant space has been created and it will be a signficant challenge for Leafs management to make the most of it.