*

 

Between Mikhail Grabovski, Dustin Penner, Damien Brunner, Tom Gilbert and Toni Lydman, you could legitimately build a pretty solid second-line and second-pairing out of remaining unrestricted free-agents.

 

*

 

How much money did Grabovski's outspoken comments about Randy Carlyle's level of intelligence cost him in free-agency? Did it cost him an NHL job altogether?

 

I tend to think of Grabovski as one of the top-10 best two-way centreman in hockey, but the fact that it's mid-July and he's yet to sign a deal suggests that the industry doesn't rate him too highly for some reason (be it personal or performance based).

 

*

 

Eric T wrote a great piece on possession stats and free-agency this weekend. Turns out that everyone and their mother's hairdresser's milkman wants to sign the guy who produces goals, or punches faces, but the market undervalues possession players. 

 

*

 

Which brings us back to Grabovski. If the industry isn't rating him highly, they're wrong. Some team is going to improve enormously upon signing "Grabbo," and if the Anaheim rumours are true then I'm almost giddy for an Andrew Cogliano, Mikhail Grabovski, Daniel Winnik line. What an ice-tilting group that might be (even playing in front of Anaheim's underwhelming batch of blue-liners).

 

*

 

Like essentially every other hockey fan, media member, NHL player, or executive - I'm still mentally unpacking the Kovalchuk defection and its possible ramifications for the sport, the league and the Devils organization. 

 

What a shocking development that was, eh?

 

*

 

Obviously the Devils benefit. Yes the organization loses a super elite talent, which is never good. But in terms of taking on a lesser "cap benefit recapture" penalty as a result of Kovalchuk's enormously controversial contract, and in being freed up from a 77 million dollar commitment at a time when the franchise is in dire straits financially... Well let's just say there's a reason or two behind why the Devils aren't fighting this. 

 

*

 

Great stuff from Cam Charron breaking down the Kovalchuk brouhaha through the prism of salary cap recapture this weekend.

 

*

 

For the league as a whole this is a bit of a black eye, I think. As Greg Wyshynski wrote in his excellent take on Kovalchuk's Devils tenure and ultimate defection, Kovalchuk is "worth the price of admission." And now Kovalchuk's an attraction that will no longer be a part of the NHL's big show.

 

*

 

For the sport of hockey, however, I'm conflicted as to whether or not the Kovy defection will prove helpful or harmful long-term. On the one hand, players will benefit by having another show in town, so to speak, in the expanding KHL.

 

The KHL remains more of an ambitious Russian social project than a successful business at this point, though it's quickly transitioning from a top Russian league into a more general european super league. Which is pretty neat.

 

It's cool that the KHL was able to snag a marquee player of Kovalchuk's ilk, even if the K is still nowhere close to seriously challenging the NHL's supremacy as a quality professional hockey league.

 

*

 

What is bad for hockey in general (and for Russian hockey in particular) is the exodus of Russian players from the National Hockey League. As James Mirtle pointed out this week, only 18 Russian born players dressed in more than 30 games last season, a number thats down at least 66% from ten years ago.

 

There are talented players - like Evgeni Kuznetsov or Ilya Nikulin - who might well be, not just regulars, but stars in the NHL. Most North American hockey fans have never seen them play a game. That weakens the NHL's product, especially since the KHL and NHL have no cross over relationship (or any relationship of any kind beyong casual antagonism).

 

It also weakens, in my opinion, the Russian National Men's Hockey Team. The fact is, fewer Russian players play in the best professional hockey league in the world and it's a major reason why I don't like the host nation's chances going into Sochi. Y'know, besides their total lack of elite blueliners...

 

*

 

The other big hockey news of the past week: David Perron to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi and the thirty-first overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (I kid). 

 

I really like this deal for both sides, I have to say.

 

First of all: I'm a big fan of Paajarvi's game. Paajarvi, if you haven't seen much of him, is a sizable forward (and a guy who will probably still fill out going forward) with impressive wheels. I hate player comparisons but he looks to me like he's got potential to be a high-end version of Jannik Hansen, with a lot of defensive value even if his hands never manage to catch up with his feet. Playing for Ken Hitchcock in particular I think his skillset will prove useful, and of course, Paajarvi will cost a lot less than Perron will over the next three seasons.

 

Essentially St. Louis is gambling that Magnus Paajarvi - who is still four years away from UFA eligibility - and a second rounder will provide them with comparable value at a lesser cost than Perron would have over the next three (to four) seasons. It's a reasonable gamble, especially for a big grinding team like St. Louis that isn't desperate for the "grit" and "size" factor that Perron brings. Edmonton was desperate for exactly that, of course.

 

I like this deal for the Oilers, however, because in David Perron they got the probable best player in this deal. Perron is a productive forward when healthy - which he generally hasn't been over the past two and a half years - and has generally helped St. Louis outscore their opposition while driving possession. Yeah it's a bit easier to "drive play" when you spend the bulk of your ice-time skating alongside David Backes, but Perron's ability to control the puck down low has impressed me in the past and his presence certainly adds a dimension to the Oilers.

 

So Edmonton is gambling on Perron's health, and there's some significant risk there as Perron has struggled with concussion issues over the past few years (though he played all 48 games for the Blues this past season). Meanwhile St. Louis is gambling that Paajarvi can develop into 80% the player Perron is (for 50% of the cost, or so). Overall I prefer Doug Armstrong's wager to MacTavish's, but not by much.

 

*

 

Finally, Corey Pronman has unleashed his annual summer "organizational rankings" for NHL prospect pipelines. Interesting read for draftniks and poolies. 


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Comments (10)add comment

Rollie1967 said:

Rollie1967
... Grabo wasnt even the Leafs best 2 way center, i wouldnt have him in my top 20. That said, there is still a market for decent 2nd line ctr. Calgary, Washington,Tampa could all be good fits, which probably means that Holmgren is trying to sign him.
July 15, 2013
Votes: +0

DuklaNation said:

DuklaNation
... Grabovski has become overrated in 2 weeks.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +2

4horsemen said:

4horsemen
... Enjoyed the ramblings today...nice work! Calling the KHL an 'ambitious social project' was gold!

I'm not nearly as convinced as many seem to be that KHL production translates to NHL success. This is a league where Tim Stapleton was one of the leading scorers, where Kulemin and Zherdev scored at over a PPG pace, etc, etc. We've seen NHL rejects land there with great success over and over again so when a kid like Kuznetsov leads his team in scoring I don't make the leap of faith that he'll be a star in the NHL any more than I'd expect Zherdev to be a star upon his return or that Kulemin is a PPG player just waiting to bust out. Take their prized possession (until now) Radulov, the guy left the NHL as a sub 60 point player (albeit at 21 years old) and proceeded to rip the KHL apart year after year. What sort of player would we expect if he returned to the NHL? A star 70 point guy, an elite 80+ point guy? My guess is that we'd see another 60-70 point guy who constantly frustrates fantasy GM's hoping for more. Tarasenko's PPG KHL production as a teenager in 2012/13 translated into 0.5ppg production in the NHL last year and he was a year older so we could reasonably assume that his KHL production would have been considerably higher had he returned. Of course he's young and it's a small sample size but his age and inexperince didn't seem to hold him back in the KHL so they're obviously playing a different game over there.

Put me in the 'I'll believe it when I see it camp' smilies/grin.gif
July 14, 2013
Votes: +0

BCFelony said:

BCFelony
... I've never heard of Ilya Nikulin before, so I looked up his stat line on hockeydb. He never would have made it in the NHL, way too light.

http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=51171
July 14, 2013
Votes: +1

Dakkster said:

Dakkster
... The biggest thing for St. Louis in the Paajarvi/Perron deal is that it frees up LOADS of top six icetime for Jaden Schwartz who was arguably their best forward down the stretch and in the playoffs. The odds of him exploding in 13/14 just got considerably better.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +1

Thomas Drance said:

Thomas Drance
... @Jaxx I specified "two-way" centreman. Grabovski's defensive game is, in my opinion, better than most of the guys you listed except for Toews, Datsyuk, Kopitar, Koivu, Bergeron, J. Staal, Pavelski, O'Reilly in my view.

Also pretty sure his "solo artist" rep offensively is way, way over-stated.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Jaxx said:

Jaxx
grabobski - value? i think you are over-valuing grabbo. i like him but top 10? c'mon!!! these centres are ahead of him and this is just a quick listing... i am sure there are others. you would have any of these guys ahead of grabbo in a top 6 role.

getzlaf, stamkos, crosby, malkin, datsyuk, zetterberg, toews, backstrom, tavares, sedin, duchene, kopitar, couture, thornton, mkoivu, bergeon, krejci, staal, staal, pavelski, nuge, o'reilly, spezza, turris .........

he's just alright defensively and a solo-artist offensively - unable to use wingers effectively. from time to time, he will score a pretty goal but those are usually the solo efforts i speak of. he is all for teh "team" but just does not make proper decisions because his first thought is to go on offence. the team made the right decision in buying him out.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +0

JHM said:

JHM
... Coke/Pepsi
NHL/KHL

Certainly not a new idea, but one that the NHL would be wise to embark upon. It's only reasonable to wonder that striving to run a cap leaue in an open market may become stressful.

Are we simply watching the rise of a second power (KHL)? Even if their revenue strategy is not viable from a business point of view, over the short term, an ever strengthening foundation is being laid for the future.

It's not reasonable for us to think that the cities in the hockey countries elsewhere in the world, don't want the BEST hockey too. Although it seems a bumpy start at times, maybe we're witnessing a re-birth. The NHL best make a quality business decision in this regard ASAP. The wise business strategy may very well be to open a European division.

We can't deny that players wish to play in certain cultures. Language and customs are important to the quality of life for players. Some players value this to a greater extent than others.

I suspect a wise man considers this in re-developing the draft. The percentages of NHLers that regions are producing parlays into the draft process. Competition might see one conference crossing over annually to play in Europe, and then the European division crossing over to visit a North American division. Playoffs seeing cross over on perhaps the second or third round. Perhaps in time, the final.

So NHL, get on the wagon now, or accept that later working together may not become a possibility. When the balance of power evens out a bit more, the time may have passed.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +0

donpaulo said:

donpaulo
... Or maybe Grabovski is waiting for a better offer
No point in signing a low ball contract, so why sign at all ?
He is young, talented and pissed off at Toronto, were I buffalo I would be taking a long hard look at signing him
July 14, 2013
Votes: +0

Username said:

Username
... Or maybe Grabovski remains unsigned because he just got married and is on his honeymoon.
July 14, 2013
Votes: +2
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