Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 3/8/12


When the Toronto Maple Leafs announced Tuesday that they re-signed Mikhail Grabovski to a five-year, $27.5 million deal, the first question that came to mind for many was, "is the 28-year-old center worth it?"
The answer, believe it or not, is a resounding "Yes."
It's easy to doubt Brian Burke these days. The Leafs' GM added a few more greys to his predominantly white coif, coming off a bad week, to put it mildly -- a week that saw him fire Ron Wilson, his friend of 40 years, while watching his team fall off a cliff and out of the playoff race.
In spite of his credibility taking a serious shot in Toronto recently, the move to re-sign Grabovski was a smart one and will go a long way in restoring his reputation as the right man for the job in Toronto.
Just as long as he gets a goaltender in the offseason.
Let's stay on track here. The initial reaction to $27.5 million over five years might be that it's "too much money" for a second-line center, especially considering he's been a part of the overall problem -- the Leafs' inability to qualify for postseason play since the lockout -- rather than a part of the solution during his four years in Toronto.
But Burke realized what he had in Grabovski -- the sometimes streaky, but certainly steady two-way center -- and opted against trading 'Grabbo' at the deadline, turning his focus to re-signing him. When you combine the Leafs' dire need for a first-line center (insert Tim Connolly joke here) with the not-so-bumper crop of free-agent centermen this offseason, locking up Grabovski spares Burke the tall order of trying to fill the middle of the Leafs' offence with two proven playmakers.
Does his contract hinder the team's ability to sign a true number one center? Not as much as Mike Komisarek's $4.5 million deal does. It was clear, however, that Grabovski would've been the most sought after pivot on the open market, commanding a multi-year deal worth at least $5 million per year, combined with far more upside than the likes of UFA's Olli Jokinen, Jochen Hecht or Jarrett Stoll. So Burke was willing to overpay slightly to avoid the risk -- and embarrassment -- of losing Grabbo to free agency and getting nothing in return.
Critics are quick to point out that the Leafs' third-leading scorer is now making more than the team's top gun, Phil Kessel (albeit $100,000 more). Yes, Kessel's building on career-highs in goals and points and likely is worth slightly more than the $5.4 million per year he's set to earn through the 2013-14 season. If he keeps up his current totals though, Kessel's day will come.
But this is Grabovski's time. He has quietly made a name for himself in the NHL as a complete forward, someone who can both snipe and pass, and also play responsibly in his own end. Not to be understated, this is the second straight year Grabovski has led the Leafs in plus-minus; and on many nights he's the most dangerous player on the ice for the Blue and White, or either team for that matter. Case in point, his magnificent three-point performance to lead Toronto past Montreal in Randy Carlyle's coaching debut this past Saturday night.
So, Burke can sleep a little easier, at least for one night. Grabovski is locked up and he's not going anywhere. And Leaf fans should also be breathing a sigh of relief.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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