I talked the other day about the Oilers being unable to add high-quality, marquee free agents this summer due to their salary cap situation. Peter Chiarelli will have to upgrade Edmonton’s roster with inexpensive, low-risk players because he’s already made big free agent acquisitions in previous summers.
Thomas Vanek was the idea fit I talked about the other day. He isn’t perfect but can score goals and make the power play better. That said, I think a lot of teams are going to be interested in Vanek’s services for that gun-slinging, sheltered scoring role. Another name that’s more of a buy-low option is Michael Grabner.
Who is Michael Grabner?
Michael Grabner’s career has been a series of ups and downs, both short- and long-term.
He was drafted 14th overall by the Canucks back in 2006 and spent two-and-a-half years in the AHL before finally debuting with the team in 2009-10. After just 20 games with the Canucks, he was part of a multi-player deal that sent Keith Ballard from Florida to Vancouver.
Grabner, for whatever reason, couldn’t crack the Panthers’ opening roster. This was a team that went on to win 30 games. Their leading scorer had 49 points. Yet, the Panthers put Grabner on waivers and he was scooped up by the New York Islanders. He would go on to score 34 goals in his rookie season. The most interesting thing about Grabner was how absurdly good he was on the penalty kill. He scored six shorthanded goals that season and got votes for the Selke Trophy.
It took Grabner five years to replicate what he did in his rookie season. He scored 20 goals in 2011-12 but then started to struggle with injuries. He was acquired by the Leafs in 2015-16 when the team was actively trying to lose to draft Auston Matthews and he only scored nine goals in 80 games. It looked like Grabner was done.
The following season, he inked a one-year deal with the Rangers and popped off for 27 goals. He signed another one-year deal and had another good offensive season. The Rangers ultimately decided to blow it up at the trade deadline and Grabner was one of their top assets. He had 25 goals in 59 games and netted the team a second-round pick and a prospect from the Devils.
But the rollercoaster took another dip for Grabner in New Jersey. He scored just two goals in the final 21 games of the season and was a healthy scratch for all but two of the team’s playoff games.
Does he fit on the Oilers?
Grabner really managed to gut his value during that horrendous showing with the Devils. Had he continued on the pace he was operating at with the Rangers, he probably could have inked a multi-year deal this summer. But after totally falling off the cliff like that, I can’t see anybody offering Grabner anything other than another one-year deal.
That’s a good thing for the Oilers as Grabner is an ideal buy-low candidate for the team. He’s a right winger who shoots left. Edmonton’s right wing depth chart heading into next season consists of a handful of wild cards. Does Kailer Yamamoto crack the team? Does Jesse Puljujarvi take a step forward? Was Ty Rattie’s hot finish an indication of anything worhtwhile? There are a lot more question marks on the right side than there are sure things for the Oilers.
There are a couple things I prefer about Grabner to Vanek. First, Grabner scores all of his goals at even strength. Obviously being good on the power play is a worthwhile skill but I would rather have players who can produce at five-on-five. Also, Grabner is strong on the penalty kill. The Oilers’ penalty kill was horrendous last season and Grabner would be a nice addition to improve it.
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