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UFA center Mikhail Grabovski signs new deal...with soccer team

Mikhail Grabovski of the Washington CapitalsMikhail Grabovski will be getting his kicks in Belarus this summer. (Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

It used to be that a player would drape himself in bubble wrap, wear two seat belts and beg off changing diapers in order to ensure that nothing could possibly go wrong between the expiry of one contract and the signing of a new deal.

But times have changed.

These days, those temporary bouts of unemployment are more likely to be spent in heedless pursuit of career endangerment. Yesterday, we heard that UFA winger Ales Hemsky was playing for his native Czech Republic at the Inline Hockey World Championship. Today comes word that another UFA, center Mikhail Grabovski, has signed a deal to play pro soccer this summer.

To be fair, you have to entertain a fairly broad interpretation of "professional" in this case. Grabovski's new employers are the Minsk Ravens, a third-tier club in his homeland of Belarus. His teammates and opponents will be guys who spend most of their week baking bread or selling overstocked tractors, not Mikhail Sivakov or Igor Shitov.

Still, there's a real chance that he could get banged up on the pitch by someone looking to make a name for himself, and that could throw a serious wrench into Grabovski's financial future. He showed enough last season in Washington (13-25-38 in 58 games) to generate an offer of $3.5 million or so with term, perhaps more, considering how many teams (the Capitals, Islanders and Predators among them) could use some scoring with a bit of grit in the middle.

That said, we've never been more interested in third-rate Belorussian soccer, like, ever. Maybe ESPN can devote some of that time they're not using to cover the Stanley Cup Final to work up a highlight package for us, eh?
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