|Mikhail Grabovski, 84, Toronto Maple Leafs|
"The preference is to sign him, but he could go. In fact, the Toronto Maple Leafs have a deal on the table, right now, that would give them a second round draft pick and a prospect for Mikhail Grabovski. Brian Burke believes that he can sweeten that, if necessary, maybe get a first rounder out of the deal. But again, they're not making that decision until February 27th. They know they need him, and the preference is to sign him."The Leafs will only trade Grabovski if they feel a contract will not be figured out by the trade deadline on February 27th. Toronto does not want to let him go to a free agent market without getting anything in return. Ideally though, Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, wants him to remain in the blue and white if the two sides can agree on a deal.
As it stands now, the offer of a prospect and a second round draft pick is a bit weak for Grabovski. There is no indication on how good a prospect is on the table, but unless it is a very good prospect, with a ton of NHL upside, I don't think the offer is enough to get Burke to pull the trigger. If in fact Grabovski is to be traded before the trade deadline, he is likely to get a better offer in the next week and a half.
Grabovski takes up a big role on Toronto's roster. He is slotted as the center of the second line, but is Toronto's best centre. He is the glue that holds the second line together, and on nights where Phil Kessel and the first line aren't getting it going, he is the go-to guy for coach Ron Wilson. If you take Grabovski out of the picture, there is going to be a big hole that no one currently in the organization can fill. Tim Connolly will likely take the spot on the second line if that is the case, but he has not been meeting the expectations the Maple Leafs thus far this season.
If Grabovski does get traded, the Maple Leafs hopes of making the playoffs this season will be a far more difficult tast than it looks to be at the moment. He has a lot of chemistry with Clarke MacArthur and Nikolai Kulemin, and although Kulemin's numbers are down this season, the second line comprised of those three players is rather effective. In games this season when MacArthur has not played with Grabovski, his contributions to the team have declined rather significantly. If Grabovski goes, so does the chemistry of the second line, and so does a good portion of Toronto's secondary scoring.
There are quite a few fans that don't mind if Grabovski goes because they claim that Joe Colborne will take his spot and succeed just as well. I don't think there is any indication that the Leafs will have Colborne on the second line at any point this season or even next season, unless his development accelerates rapidly. He is a good prospect, but not NHL-ready at this point in time, and is still a few years away from being an effective top six forward, if he even meets that goal at all.
I believe Grabovski is looking around the five million dollar per season amount over a term of approximately five years, or so. One could argue that compared to other contracts around the league, and compared to similar contracts the Leafs have offered players, Grabovski is one of the most talented players for that price range. In my opinion, the only way Grabovski gets traded out of Toronto is if he no longer wants to play here, or if he is asking for too much money. That being said, there is no indication that Grabovski wants to leave Toronto, in fact he has stated many times that he wants to remain a Maple Leaf. As for his expected salary, I don't see Grabovski getting more than six million dollars per season in the free agent market, so it may be in his best interest to stay in Toronto for around five million per year.
At the end of the day, I would be surprised if the Leafs traded Grabovski, due to a differing view during contractual negotiations. I believe both sides want to get the deal done and will make strong attempts to do so before the trade deadline. I also don't see Brian Burke accepting the best trade available when February 27th rolls around, however, if a team does offer him a trade that far exceeds his percieved value of Grabovski, I don't think he will hesitate to pull the trigger. As it stands now though, a prospect and a second round pick is not enough.