Mikhail Grabovski returns to Toronto

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mikhail Grabovski will play his first game in Toronto since he was bought out over the summer. He seems to be fitting in quite nicely in Washington.

When the Washington Capitals visit the Maple Leafs on Saturday night it will be Mikhail Grabovski's first trip to Toronto since he was bought out of the remainder of his contract this past summer.

After a disappointing 2012-13 season, his first year in a five-year $27.5 million contract, the Maple Leafs used one of their cap compliance buyouts to rid themselves of the cap hit. It was a trying year for Grabovski as his role under coach Randy Carlyle relegated him to a checking-line forward that was constantly going up against the other teams' top lines and starting the overwhelming majority of his shifts in the defensive zone.

It should have been expected that his offense would suffer as a result. And it did, as he went from being a consistent 50-point performer to a player that finished the 48-game season with just 16 points.

He did not leave on the best of terms and sounded off in an interview with TSN just after he was bought out.

"I play in the [expletive] Russian KHL, I make lots of [expletive] points and what's going to happen? He make me [expletive] play on the fourth line and he put me in the playoffs on the fourth line and third line again," Grabovski spewed. "Yeah, I don't score goals. I need to work more about that. I know that. But if you feel support from your coach [you'll find success]. I don't feel any support from this [expletive] idiot."

After remaining unsigned for much of the offseason, the Capitals were able to get him on a one-year, $3 million contract and it's turned out to be a great move for both sides. Grabovski has already topped his point total from a year ago in just 23 games (19 points) and seems happy that Washington is allowing him to play to his strengths.

"I think it’s been a good move for me here," Grabovski said, via Katie Carrera of the Washington Post. "Of course I felt terrible when they buy out my contract, but right now I feel excellent because [the Capitals] give me liberties, so I can play my hockey and my style of hockey. You enjoy to play when people trust you and they give you a chance to play."

Carlyle was reminded of that on Saturday.

During his first four full seasons in Toronto Grabovski developed into a strong two-way player that could not only be counted on for nearly 50 points every year, but could also handle things in his own end of the ice, keeping play moving in the right direction. And he was consistently one of Toronto's best possession players.

Toronto's usage of him last season pretty much took away his ability to create offense.

The table below shows how his usage has changed over the years.

Year Qual. of Competition O-Zone Start % Points
2008-09 .371 52.5 48
2009-10 .138 55.1 35 (59 games)
2010-11 .465 50.2 58
2011-12 .686 57.0 51
2012-13 1.451 36.7 16 (48 games)
2013-14 .995 49.5 68 (on pace for)

The 2012-13 season appears to be an outlier in an otherwise productive career due in part to a sudden shift in his role. The Capitals were fortunate enough to take advantage of it by getting him on such a bargain contract and putting him back into a position where he can take advantage of his skill.

If he continues on his current pace for the remainder of the season, his next deal, whether it's in Washington or another city, is sure to be closer to the one Toronto bought him out of.

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