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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

UFA Profile: Michael Grabner’s poor finish makes him a buy-low option

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.

Previously…

UFA Profile: John Carlson

UFA Profile: James van Riemsdyk

UFA Profile: Mike Green

UFA Profile: James Neal

UFA Profile: Thomas Vanek


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  • RexHolez

    we need wingers big time. I have no faith that playing Rattie, aberg and Caggiula will get us anywhere near a playof spot. Puljujarvi hasn’t proven he can be relied upon, lucic needs to show he can bounce back. Yamamoto and benson should be in minors.

    We need actual nhl wingers. Vanek and Grabner would both be a big upgrade. There’s a lot of free agents that would be upgrades. Hopefully chia can find a couple good ones for cheap.

  • OriginalPouzar

    One thing I think we all need to keep in mind with Grabner is that 7 of his 24 goals with the Rangers were empty net goals.

    Yes, this means he was trusted on the ice defending a lead in the last minute, however, I think its definitely a factor when judging her prolific a goal scorer he is.

    He’s fast, can PK and can score but I’d be hesitant to pay too much based on thinking he’ll approach 30 goals.

    • crabman

      @OriginalPouzar,

      I agree that he shouldn’t be an option if he is expecting to get paid like a perennial 30 goal scorer. We a need a few stop gap veteran wingers, preferably at least 1 that can play in the top6 and they need to be value contracts.
      But Grabner scored 25 goals in 59 games with the Rangers last year. Even with 7 of them being open net goals he still scored 18 goals in 59 games. That’s pretty good production and prorates yo 25 goals (on goalies) over an 82 game season.
      I think if he is put in a position to succeed, Draisaitl or McDavid’s winger, we should be able to count on 18-25 goals. That would have made him the best goal scorer from a fulltime winger on this past season. He is an upgrade and could help Edmonton have 2 strong scoring lines.
      The fact that he is fast and a good PK guy just reinforces the fact he would be a great fit if he comes in at a good price.
      I highly doubt he leaves the New York area so all this is probably moot anyway.

  • Arfguy

    If he is willing to go to Edmonton without an over-priced contract, I would totally get him. He produces a lot of goals with speed. I think everyone thinks he would be a good winger for Connor McDavid. I personally think he’d be better suited to play with Leon Draisaitl.

  • You know, Grabner may be a good fit. He plays a fast game which suits the Oilers, and has some skill. He bounced around a lot …

    There was a time not long ago, when UFA’s avoided Edmonton at all cost. Edmonton was considered an undesirable place to play. MacT had to overpay to attract any available player, and still most said no. That changed when Lucic agreed to sign. What I’m getting at is this whole Lucic mess may send a signal to available UFA’s to pass on Oil country.

    • RexHolez

      Ya, who would want a guy that coaches trust on the pk and the last minutes of a game protecting a lead. Especially if that guy puts the game away buy burying a few empty netters. Cuz that’s somehow a bad thing!! God I hate People sometimes

  • Jaxon

    He’d be one of the better pickups for the Oilers at the right price. He’s very fast (one of the fastest skaters in the NHL) and he can score. And, he won’t cost that much.

  • OiLNATION

    Guys tell me what you guys think of these lines. These lines are compared to the opening lines of 2016-17 season vs projected 2018-19 lines:
    2016-17:
    Maroon-Mcd-Ebs
    Lucic-Drai-Pulju
    Pouliot-Nuge-Slepy
    Pitlick-Letestu-Kassian
    Caggiula and khaira

    2018-19:
    Nuge-Mcd-Rattie
    Lucic-Drai-Pulju
    Khaira-Strome-Vanek
    Caggiula-Ryan-Kassian
    Aberg and Pirri

    • OiLNATION

      This is assuming the defense stays the same. I think both lines are very similar as Nuge>Maroon, Ebs>Rattie, Khaira>Pouliot, Nuge>Strome, Vanek>Slepy, Caggiula=Pitlick, Ryan=Letestu.

    • Drivefastfinishlast

      I don’t like them.
      Leon has no confidence in Puljujarvi.
      Lucic and Leon have no chemistry.
      Lucic can’t finish and Puljujarvi has shown he can finish.
      The bottom 6 is very weak when compared to the top 20 teams in the NHL

      • OiLNATION

        Lucic and Drai showed very strong chemistry in the playoffs and I hope that can spark up again next season. The capitals bottom 6 was doubted as well prior to the playoffs. Look at the transition that bottom 6 made to help them win the cup.

        • Drivefastfinishlast

          Ok so you’re looking back the season before last where Leon did all the work. No Leon and Dria didn’t have great chemistry.
          What happened in playoffs is over. That’s in the past. Stop living in the past. This year was a different story.
          And as far as Caps go they’re are an established Playoff Contender, with skilled veteran leadership, a winning culture and great coaching staff. This is not the same as the Oilers

        • Drivefastfinishlast

          Also During the playoffs you’re playing one team. Maybe some players will have chemistry playing a piticular team but during the regular season Oilers need something consistent.

          • OiLNATION

            Stop living in the past? Im using the past to affect the decisions the oilers should make in the present and future. If Lucic does not do good with leon then by all means demote him. I just want to give him one last chance in the top 6 to show if he can still play well. All of these comments are opinions, and if you think the comments have to be the same as your opinions then your an idiot.

    • FanBoy

      What do you think of:

      Nuge/McDavid/Rattie
      Grabner/Draisaitl/Vanek
      Lucic/Strome/Puljujarvi
      Caggiula/Khaira/Kassian
      Pirri/Aberg

      I think we can afford this with the same D and if both come at 3M.

      • crabman

        I like the makeup of your lines but if Vanek and Grabner are both signed at $3M per, an over pay for each I believe, I think the team will be over the cap.
        Counting each as $3M your forward group would cost $44M before signing Strome , Caggiula, and Pirri.
        The defence costs $17.84M before signing Nurse, Benning and a 7th D.
        And Goaltending is costing $6.67M.
        Adding in Pouliot’s buyout $1.33M we have a grand total of $69.84M.
        If the cap goes to $80M it leaves just over $10M to sign 4 RFAs, 14th forward and 7thD. All without saving any room to help facilitate a trade during the season or at the deadline and also not planning on Puljujarvi reaching any of his possible bonuses.
        If the cap goes to $82M and save $1-1.5M between Grabner and Vanek it could work but I wouldn’t plan/expect for those things to happen.

    • crabman

      @OiLNATION,

      I like your adds, and would expect that to be the very best we could get out of free agency without a major trade 1st. It could be right against the cap depending on the Ryan and Vanek cap hits. Not sure I run the lines the same but there are enough players that can play multiple positions/roles that McLellan would have options depending on how players played in camp and pre season and who finds early chemistry with Draisaitl.
      I might try;
      Nuge-McDavid-Rattie
      Vanek-Draisaitl-Aberg
      Lucic-Strome-Puljujarvi
      Khaira-Ryan-Kassian

      I think Rattie gets the 1st look at 1RW because he had chemistry with McNuge last year. I would try Aberg with Draisaitl in camp because they had some success last year, small sample size, and is a shooter. I would put Vanek at 2LW. He can play both wings and is another shooter for Draisaitl. I put the 3rd line that closed last year back together because Puljujarvi and Strome seemed to be developing chemistry, even if the goals didn’t come. I know Lucic and Puljujarvi were a disaster together but Lucic is a 3W right now in my eyes and he still had lots of grade a scoring chanceduring his slump, 25 in the last 48 games according to Staples over at the Edmonton Journal, and Lucic typically scores 25% of his grade A scoring chances not the 4% he did. That indicates very bad luck luck and he should have scores 6-7 more goals. Still not a top6 scoring winger but his numbers with Puljujarvi would have looked much better. The bottom line would be a combination of size, speed and skill. With Ryan and Khaira they have righty and lefty that can take faceoffs and 3 players that can spend some time further up the lineup if needed.

      That’s my reasoning behind my line combinations with your lineup.
      I will say I see Ryan more as a 3C/Strome replacement if a deal can’t be made and they go their separate ways. Ryan and Kasssian on a bottom line has real depth but also seems to be too expensive of a bottom line and unlikely to happen. I think his spot will be filled with someone like, Brodziak, Winnik or Beagle at or just under $1M.

      • OiLNATION

        Being paid 6 mill i want lucic to get one last shot in the top 6 to try to prove himself. If he fails then by all means demote him. I admire your lines if lucic does not perform well in the top 6. I dont know about you but I feel derek ryan is more valuable of a player than kassian, and I would be willing to trade kassian in order to sign ryan. He is more skilled, a center, and good on special teams aswell.

        • crabman

          @OiLNATION,

          I can respect wanting to give Lucic another chance in the top6 considering his cap hit. I would start him on the 3rd line and if he is having a bounce back promote him. Either way I see we agree if Lucic plays well he will be on the 2nd line and if not he will play on the 3rd. Where he starts matters less than where he ends up.
          I would also take Ryan over Kassian for the fact that he can help on the PP can play center or wing but he doesn’t play much on the PK which is his only down side.

  • Drivefastfinishlast

    The difference for Chiarelli working in Edmonton compared to Boston is that here he is actually given a second chance to correct his mistakes.
    If Chiarelli goes so does Bob Nicholson.
    This off-season will be about correcting those mistakes.
    1. Signing a back-up goalie, which he did.
    2. Trading Lucic and signing a winger
    3.Fixing the D.

    What really bugs me about Chiarelli is that he has no foresight to look down the road to see who was going to be available.
    Could imagine instead of Lucic+Strome Oilers went after John Tavares.
    Instead of Sekera+ Russel Oilers went after either Karrelsson, Carlson or OEL.
    These are just examples.

    I hope the salary cap goes to $82million. Oilers will need it.

  • Natti_89

    I say sign him for a couple years. That should give some of the fans here adequate amounts of time to run him out of here. Too bad we can’t trade a player for some of the brainless turds on this site.

  • OilersGM

    When Florida put him on waivers in 2010 I believe the Oilers had the first chance to pick him up and passed on him and I was pissed because he showed he was fast and skilled I. The brief time with the Canucks but our organization didn’t recognize talent and almost a decade later nothing has changed this organization still can’t figure out talent. They created holes by trading away good and great wingers and now are looking to fill those wholes with players at the back end of their career. Very very sad.

      • Corbs

        We don’t have 4 better wingers. That doesn’t make them the answer. Using your rationale…name 4 wingers better than Puljujarvi? We don’t have 4 better but that doesn’t make him the answer either. They have to do better than Grabner it Vanek if they want to make the playoffs.

        • crabman

          @Corbs,

          honest question, how do you suggest the Oilers upgrade the wings this offseason with the cap room they have right now? If it isn’t through free agency what realistic moves do you make to improve the team?

          Because I for 1 think adding Vanek or Grabner on a low cap, low term contract does improve the team next year. No, neither are difference makers but they are competent and experienced top6 wingers.

          • Corbs

            I wish I knew. Unfortunately I don’t think our gm knows either. I just don’t see either of those guys (or both) getting us in the playoffs. If they really want to upgrade the wings I’d move Sekera and the #10 pick. It’s not hard to get a player to wave his no-move. I don’t know what else they can do.

  • Moneyball

    On the right side our best winger is Tie Rattie, who may be a great fit but there is not much history to support that idea. Grabner would at least be #2 on the right wing depth chart so why not?

    • Corbs

      Agree that we don’t know about Rattie. I just think that if Grabner is #2 we miss the playoffs by a mile anyways so may as well play a young guy there and let him get experience.

      • IRONman

        PC better build something now. He has had 3 years. Not his fault the New Nhl is speed and 2018 oilers had no D and bizzare pp and penalty kill on road vs home. Oilers need to build a Balance of players. Deep on Centers but the rest of the team needs repair. Motion creates emotion, so do pto on these free agents.