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TORONTO -- The rest of the NHL now knows how highly the Toronto Maple Leafs think of Mikhail Grabovski.

Brian Burke made the impending free agent his highest-paid forward Tuesday, signing Grabovski to a US$27.5-million, five-year extension.

That vaults the 28-year-old centre just outside the top 30 in terms of cap hit among NHL forwards. It was also the biggest deal Burke has handed out since being hired by the Leafs in November 2008 and bumped Grabovski $100,000 ahead of Leafs winger Phil Kessel in annual salary.

"They know I love to play here and they did everything to keep me here," Grabovski said before Toronto faced the Boston Bruins. "I'm enjoying being part of this organization."

The deal also includes a limited no-trade clause that allows Grabovski to select 10 teams each season he'd be willing to move to.

It's a major commitment to a player who was acquired in 2008 from Montreal for a second-round pick. Grabovski has grown into his own since then and become the team's most reliable two-way forward, not to mention an important presence in the dressing room.

"He's got a lot of heart when he plays," said linemate Clarke MacArthur. "I think that's something a lot of teams would want to build around."

Grabovski's agent, Gary Greenstin, was first approached by the Leafs about a new contract in October and called the negotiations that followed "tough." The Grabovski camp was seeking a six- or seven-year deal but the Leafs GM wouldn't budge off five.

Greenstin believes his client would have earned even more money had he hit the free-agent market July 1, but Grabovski's heart was always in Toronto. He met his girlfriend Kate in the city and the couple has two young children.

"It's a nice feeling," said Grabovski. "You protect your life for five years. Right now you can concentrate on hockey. For sure inside you feel much better than (when) you don't have a contract."

His current deal pays him $3.1 million.

A year ago, Grabovski set career highs with 29 goals and 58 points -- numbers he's slightly off pace of matching this season. However, the Leafs were comfortable giving him such a large contract because he'd be very difficult to replace if they let him walk away in free agency.

"His speed and skill are valuable commodities and fit perfectly with our style of play," Burke said in a statement. "He leads by example and his work ethic speaks for itself."

One of the first things new coach Randy Carlyle did after taking over for Ron Wilson was bump Grabovski up in the lineup. He thought the five-foot-11 centre was "the best player on the ice" during a 3-1 victory in Montreal on Saturday.

"The competitiveness that he displays and the size that he is proves to us that little men can compete," said Carlyle. "He's displayed it and he's been rewarded for it."

For his part, Grabovski had no concerns about signing a long-term deal so soon after a major change was made within the organization. He's confident in his role.

"This coach come here and he believe in me," said Grabovski. "I'm a soldier. You know, I just want to work for whatever coach is here."

Grabovski's notorious work ethic has carried him a long way.

Born in Germany, where his father Yury was working as an engineer, he was raised in a small two-bedroom apartment in Minsk, Belarus that his parents shared with his grandparents. He rose through the ranks in that country and was selected in the fifth round of the 2004 draft by the Canadiens.

From there, it took him four years to establish himself as a full-time NHL player.

"I always dreamed to play here in the NHL," said Grabovski. "My parents really wanted (me) to play here. Actually my dad is my first coach, my best coach, and he made me believe I can make it (to the) big level and stay here for a long time. I'm very appreciative of him."

After signing a deal that should set him up for life, he indicated that he'd be sending money home to make sure his family was well taken care of.

"I don't think it was just me," said Grabovski. "I think all my family worked for that."


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Not bad. It gives the Canucks help for now (Bozak at 3C), and help for the future (Colborne and Franson). To my recollection, Franson is a right-side d-man, which is a bonus there.

The concerns I have are related to Franson. Where would he play? My understanding is that he isn't interested in playing with the Leafs for a number of reasons, mostly related to playing time. Here's a thread from the Leafs boards on this topic:


Would he be a top-4 guy (unlikely), or a bottom pairing d-man here (likely)? If he is top-4, who gets moved down?

If he does play the right side, Tanev would be the likely guy to be demoted. What does that do to the Canucks relationship with Tanev who will be a RFA next season?

Franson is a RFA now, so he will likely want a pretty decent amount of cash. With Edler and others coming up for new deals, could the Canucks afford Franson? A trade of a guy already here might have to happen. Certainly trading Ballard and Raymond comes to mind for a lot of people, and Edler for others. Assuming Franson was brought here, I would be reluctant to move out Edler too quickly before seeing how things look with Franson.

And if Franson feels he isn't in a good situation for his career (likely being a bottom-pairing d-man for at least the next 4 years), he could force a trade this season by not signing with the Canucks. If this were to happen, what kind of a return could the Canucks expect to get for a prospect with a lot of potential but not really a lot to show on his resume (currently just under 200 games)? I suspect it might not be anything as good as Franson.

So the deal could work out to: Bozak, Colborne and something less than Franson. I might be more interested in getting Ashton, even if the Canucks have to toss in a pick/prospect with Luongo and Raymond to get the deal done.



PS - forgot to mention the cap issues. I suspect Burke would want to send back some more Cap than the amount from Bozak's contract. With the Leafs having 50 guys under contract, and the Canucks only 48, Gillis could take a couple more in than he sends out. I wouldn't be surprised to see an additional contract go either way in this deal. The Leafs would send a "bad contract" out, and the Canucks would send something else back to the Leafs.

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Roberto Luongo?

You say he is more valuabale to us sitting on the bench half the time, yet you don't see why they would do it when they get him?

Grabo isn't Kesler to them, he isn't even ever on there 1st line, Bozak and Connolly get first line time over him. grabo is more like, Higgins, Booth or Burrows.

And he can play wing, that's why we get him.

As for the prospects, they can have there chance, but I want a cup, that's what people seem to be forgetting, the goal here is too bring a cup to Vancouver, not to see how many Rookies we can fit in the line-up, it is nice to have rookies contribute, I love it myself but winning the cup is way more important to me.

And to me Cap hit doesn't matter, if he is the piece we need (which I think he is) then we go for him, if we can afford him and be fine which we can then go for it, and the point is to have him on the 2nd line and Bozak on the 3rd.

I think alot of people didn't read the entire post, they just made assumptions right away.

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Oh, I read the whole thing. You clearly misunderstood my post however.

I never said they wouldn't want Luongo, or that he's more valuable to us sitting on our bench. I did say that you're asking the Leafs to move two of their top centers - players they happen to like, a lot - in order to get Luongo.

I also said we have limited space for expensive players considering who we already have in our top 6 (not to mention we have Edler to re-sign still and others in future). Bozak has just one year left on his deal before becoming UFA as well, so he'd also be due for a raise. Then we'd be paying $6.1M, $5.5M, $5M and probably $3+M for our top 9 center options.

Moving two players who play important minutes in the same position from one team to another usually leaves a pretty significant gap unless they get a player back able to fill those minutes. The Leafs get a totally different player back instead. When one of their significant minuses since Sundin left has been the lack of a top center, your proposal is probably not the type of package they'd be willing to move.

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Of course not exactly Colborne. What I mean is Colborne takes the position of the young kid with potential coming back. At the time of Pronger trade Pronger was a premier Dman in the league. Lupul was a young kid who just finished his 2nd season. He was around 22 years old.

Lupul had 1 good season in the league.

Grabo would have been UFA this year. He's 28 years old and one of the highest paid forwards in the entire NHL. Luongo right now is not Pronger in 05. Pronger had helped his team (the main reason) reach game 7 of finals. Luongo just lost his starting position on his team.

Edit: If Colborne came here he would probably spend a full season in the AHL. So Colborne is not who would help immediately. Bozak would be 3rd line C and Franson would be a big young Dman who plays right side.

MG has stated he wants something that could help now and something to help stock the prospect cupboard. I think Colborne, Franson and Bozak accomplish those goals.

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I disagree. While Luongo helps them, you've taken away two players they've been grooming to play in their system and hoping two older players they only added last year (one of which has only one season in the last five above 36 points, the other has only one season in the last 6 above 47 points) can be top 6 guys for them.

Colbourne is not a top line center as most are projecting him as more of a good 3rd line center. That puts him on about the same level of offensive output as Connelly and Lombardi and still doesn't fix their top 6.

Kadri hasn't been well received of late in the Toronto organization, regardless of the talent he may have. He hasn't shown he's ready to take over the role of #1 center in the next 3 years.

Grabovski has had 50+ his last two years, and Bozak had a good year last year at 47 points. Both had better production in the NHL than Lombardi or Connelly of late, and Kadri's projected NHL numbers aren't there yet as mentioned. That, along with Lombardi and Connelly's injury history, that doesn't really instil confidence.

Remember, this is a team that hasn't made the playoffs since before the last lockout and Burke can't hold onto his job forever if he misses again. He's not looking for a playoff team in a few years, he's looking for one now with the hopes to get better going forward. Otherwise, he'd see how Reimer and Scrivens play out.

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I disagree. While Luongo helps them, you've taken away two players they've been grooming to play in their system and hoping two older players they only added last year (one of which has only one season in the last five above 36 points, the other has only one season in the last 6 above 47 points) can be top 6 guys for them.

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The more I look at this, the more I'm thinking the Canucks could do without Franson as an important piece in this trade.

I'm okay with Colborne being a 2/3 center (maybe more 3C than 2C) if that is his ceiling. He's no Bjugstad but he should be pretty good.

I'd be more inclined to try and get Bozak, Colborne and Ashton, with a cap dump contract, in exchange for Luongo and other assets. In order to get Ashton in this deal, the Canucks would have to give up a fairly decent prospect. If the prospect from the Canucks were good enough, maybe they get Franson thrown in on the deal... yeah right, that'll happen. :P



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I had heard they were trying to convert JVR to a center as well. That may or may not work as I can't say I've seen him play center, or how good he'd be. Perhaps he works, perhaps not, but they have some mediocre options they're hoping turn into much better players than they currently have shown if they would be willing to move their two top point producing centers from last season.

Your deal is robbing Peter to pay Paul, filling one hole by opening another. That's a big risk for a team that hasn't made the playoffs in years. I'm sure they'd much rather move only one of those two, or move some of the other pieces (Colbourne, Kadri, Ashton, etc) that are still developing in the hopes they can have success now. I don't see them moving both.

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And Luongo wasn't?

I wouldn't mind getting that package but I would rather have Grabo, cause I want the cup.

Where would Franson fit? Tanev and Ballard are a solid pair, both are NHL defensemen, Franson is great but do we really want Tanev splitting time in and out of the line-up again? He has been shaky a bit in the AHL but he is an NHL defensemen now, and he should get that chance.

I would just push hard for Grabo, because he the perfect fit for our team right now, then if we absolutely can't get him (which I think we might be able too) then maybe settle for a package like that, although I wouldn't mind getting Kadri or a 1st instead of Colbourne.

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I'm not sure how it is a step backwards? because Grabo and Bozak did such a great job taking them to the playoffs before right?

This team the way they have it can't make the playoffs, if anything is proven im pretty sure that is it ...

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We get that, but you are missing that Grabovski and Bozak weren't the issue - they are better off as a part of the solution.

Toronto was 10th in the NHL last year in goals for, but they were 29th in goals against. Clearly, shoring up their goaltending should help, but not at the expense of players that were 3rd and 4th in scoring on their team last year. The two team MVPs you mention (Kessel and Phaneuf) were -10 each, where Grabs was even, and Bozak was -7.

Obviously you have to give to get, but for the Leafs to deal them both and keep around injury prone players like Connelly and Lombardi, while trying to convert a winger to center and then start him on the first line, is not a recipe for success. Burke will likely opt for more certainty down the middle, just as he's hoping for more certainly in keeping his job.

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