On what’s been a busy day for most of the NHL, it’s been a predictably light one for the cash strapped Rangers. After losing solid depth forward Viktor Stalberg to the Canes for one year, $1.5 million, they reached agreement with free agent forward Michael Grabner. The terms are two years for an average of $1.6 million per season.
Grabner will turn 29 before the start of the ’16-17 season. A former Islander who once stunned everyone by scoring 34 goals in his first full season, Grabner never really became a consistent scorer. After netting 20 in his second year on Long Island, he totaled 28 the following two seasons. In ’14-15, he fell out of favor under coach Jack Capuano. After netting eight goals and five helpers in 34 games, he was traded to the Maple Leafs last year. In 80 contests, he went 9-9-18 with a shorthanded goal.
If there is a positive, the speedy Grabner has always been a consistent penalty killer who gets plenty of shorthanded chances. For his career, he’s scored 12 shorthanded goals with half coming in his breakout year in ’10-11. He’s scored at least one shorthanded goal in six of the previous seven seasons.
There’s no doubt penalty killing was a huge disappointment for the Rangers in ’15-16. After losing Carl Hagelin, they dropped off significantly falling to 26th with a dismal 78.2 percent. So, adding Grabner can only help.
As for what to expect, at this point he’s a fourth line, penalty kill role player. No more. No less. So, it’s nothing to get too excited over. However, he should adequately replace Stalberg, who did a solid job contributing nine goals and 11 helpers while adding some physicality. Grabner doesn’t play that style. He’s more speed and finesse.
One thing I’ve learned watching him, he’s an exciting player due to his defensive instincts which cause odd-man breaks. If only he possessed better hands. For the moment, the Rangers’ fourth line consists of Tanner Glass and Grabner. I just checked the roster and apparently, they added Nathan Gerbe for one year, $600,000. Eh.
Basically, July 1 is an expected disappointment. I would rather have had Jason Chimera for $2.25 million that the Islanders coughed up. There’s not even room for that. Sad. It could be a long quiet summer for the Rangers.