Islanders double down, sign Mikhail Grabovksi, Nikolai Kulemin

Mikhail Grabovski was rewarded for his minor contributions to the Capitals last year with a major contract from the Islanders. Photo:

Mikhail Grabovski was rewarded for his minor contributions to the Capitals last year with a major contract from the Islanders.

And now, today's reminder that it does not suck to be bought out in the NHL.

Mikhail Grabovski, who was given a golden parachute and shoved out the hatch by the Maple Leafs just last summer, will make an average of $6.79 million during the next four seasons after signing a new $20 million deal today with the New York Islanders. The total includes his salary and his buyout from the Leafs.

For the record, that's more in the bank than Carey Price, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson and Joe Thornton, among others, will get. In fact, all but 37 NHLers will make less than Grabovski, a 30-year-old pivot who collected 13 goals and 35 points in 58 games last season with the Washington Capitals.

Again, that's 35 points.

Of course, he was on pace for 49 if not for recurring ankle problems, and close to his career best––a passable output for a second-line center. That's the role Grabovksi is likely to fill for the Isles alongside his running buddy Nikolai Kulemin, who was simultaneously inked to a four-year, $16.75 million deal. Kulemin, the 27-year-old Russian Olympian, scored nine goals and chipped in 11 assists in 70 games last season with the floundering Leafs. That's not good, but he did post 30 goals and 57 points, both career highs, while skating on a wing alongside Grabovski back in 2010-11. Isles GM Garth Snow is gambling that the two will rediscover their chemistry and maybe give his team some valuable minutes on the power play (Grabovksi) and penalty kill (Kulemin).

The signings add to a logjam up front for the Islanders, who now have 14 forwards under one-way contracts. That could be seen as enviable depth, maybe the best they've had in a decade, and create a fierce battle for jobs. Or maybe a couple extra players will be harvested to improve a defensive corps that ranked 28th in goals-against per game last season and stacks up to be one of the league's worst again. Centers Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen might want to hold off on getting any Islanders-themed tattoos this summer.

Either way, the deals accomplish two goals: They move the Isles up and over the $51 million salary cap floor, and make it much less likely that the first-round pick they'll forfeit to the Sabres next summer will be used to select super prospects Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. And if Snow had to pay an "Islanders premium" to get his new signees on board, well that's just the cost of doing business in one of the league's least desirable locations.

Of course, that wouldn't be an issue if Snow hadn't short-sheeted Matt Moulson last season, but that debacle's now firmly in the past ... right?







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