Wrote about this a little bit last week, but with Mikhail Grabovski re-signing for $27.5 million US over five years (a $5.5 million cap hit), it bears further investigation.
Clearly, I'm in the minority on this one. It's a fair deal for both player and team. But, there are plenty who disagree, saying the figure is too high for someone with a career-best 58 points.
The Toronto Maple Leafs believed the fairest comparable was Tomas Plekanec, who signed a six-year, $30 million deal in 2010. Grabovski gets a little bit more, and with that will come expectation to perform to a higher level. If last Saturday's game was any indication, Randy Carlyle will lean on him to do just that.
The real question is: What would it cost to replace him?
It's the same thing Edmonton Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini asked about Ales Hemsky and Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford asked about Tuomo Ruutu.
The Maple Leafs are not strong down the middle. Grabovski is their best offensive option, even if he doesn't technically hold down the No. 1 spot. (He does need to become a better faceoff man.) Even with him, they're going to have to look for someone else. If he walks as an unrestricted free agent, exactly how does Toronto replace that?
There is one potential free-agent centre outscoring Grabovski this season (two if you want to play Zach Parise full-time at that position). It is Olli Jokinen, who is six years older. Even if, for argument's sake, you let Grabovski walk and signed Jokinen, you're still in the same position, at least one centre short. Plus, with so few potential free-agent options, it's probably going to cost you a similar amount.
Of course, there's the worse-case scenario of letting Grabovski walk and not being able to sign Jokinen or anyone else who can fill that position. Then where do you go? Trade? Anyone feel like giving up Jake Gardiner for the one impact centre you'll absolutely need to have? And who do you give up for the second one?
Leaf fans will argue there's Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne coming down the pipe. You have to think that, if Leafs GM Brian Burke really thought one (or both) could give him more than Grabovski, negotiations would have gone differently.
Hemsky drives me crazy and I'm sure Carolina would like to see Ruutu spend a little less time wrapped in gauze. But both are 29 (Hemsky in August) and play important roles on franchises that have trouble attracting players.
"Better the Devil you know, than the one you don't," said one executive Tuesday morning when I asked about Grabovski. Funny, it's the same line I heard last week when talking about Ruutu.
Toronto knows what it has with Grabovski. Without him? Right now, no clue.
Read the 30 thoughts here: http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/opin...-thoughts.html