Almost two months after Mikhail Grabovski was bought out of his contract by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the center signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Washington, giving the Capitals a bona fide second-line center to make up for the departure of Mike Ribeiro.
Grabovski's 2013 campaign, on the surface, was a letdown. He had just nine goals and 16 points in 48 games and called his head coach a "f---ing idiot" in a TV interview. But his poor numbers were largely due to facing tougher competition and starting more shifts in the defensive zone than in seasons past.
In fact, according to Behind the Net's Quality of Competition metric, only 12 forwards in the entire league saw stiffer opposition in this regard, and one of those was Nikolai Kulemin, a frequent linemate in Toronto. It was also the first season in five in which Grabovski was assigned to take more than 30 percent of his even-strength faceoffs in the defensive zone (39 percent, including neutral-zone faceoffs).
When used offensively, the way he was from 2009-10 through 2011-12, Grabovski helped generate shots on net. Ignoring special-teams play and lead-protecting situations, Grabovski's line had possession of the puck 52.4 percent of the time, best on the Leafs among forwards playing at least 1,000 even-strength minutes over that time frame.
Expect that type of offensive usage in Washington, where Grabovski will probably center the second line with Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer, plus share some occasional ice with Alex Ovechkin. Skating Grabovski with finishers like Ovechkin and Brouwer or a playmaker like Erat is sure to help drive his points-per-60-minutes numbers of 2013 (1.1) back to the levels of the past two campaigns (2.1). And Grabovski will now be part of what was the league's top power play in 2013, when Washington converted on 44 of its 164 opportunities with the man advantage (26.8 percent). Expect the Belarus native to have a nice bounce-back season.
Here are four more players whose stock will rise in 2013-14, along with five others who will likely be disappointments.