Michael Grabner is a Leaf that was subjected to some odd usage under coach Mike Babcock. While being listed as and primarily playing as a right wing throughout his career, Grabner was nevertheless converted nearly full time to the left side playing with center Nazem Kadri and KHL pro Leo Komarov. The fact that he shoots left probably explains why he was saddled with both a center (25, no full seasons) and a winger (29, 171 GP in the NHL) that are for all intents and purposes easing their way into the league. He was a veteran presence there to help steady the ship and he did provide some versatility as spent time this past season playing both wings.
The question is, how did he do with these most common linemates?
Not so well. This points per game production is indicative of a 4th line player. He didn't play a whole lot of even strength minutes, bled scoring chances and goals relative to his team. Granted his team was the Maple Leafs and he was relied upon to do the heavy lifting alongside two players that are either a long way from truly being a difference maker on the score sheet without better circumstances or an import that may just be too old to adjust to the NHL game without easy minutes.
The one thing that stands out to me is that not only was he given horrible zone starts by his coach Komarov and Kadri both individually received a ZS% of 51.2 while Grabner is way down there with 39.9%. Both Kadri and Komarov are going to look better by comparison scoring and possession wise when they are given the easier deployments. Grabner was most definitely the heavy lifter on that line and his possession metrics suffered for it.
Was this something that was specific to his one season with the Leafs or has there been a pattern throughout his career that makes the Ilses look like fools for offering him his 5 year 15 million dollar contract (3 million AAV with 2015/16 real dollars being 5 million) or is he worth taking a chance on for a team not actively trying to tank?
I'd say yes. Horrible year in Toronto aside, Grabner has scored at an impressive rate through his career and while he's not quite in the black as far as possession and scoring chances go, he still has historically done better than his team mates in nearly all areas while getting stuck with some of the more difficult zone starts amongst everyone he played with. Those points per game tell me that he is at least capable of playing higher up in the line up than a typical depth player and coming off of a very difficult season in Toronto he may be willing to look for a fresh start with a team trending upwards and he will likely come cheap.
Should the Flames sign him? This one is all about his price tag and subsequent cap hit. He's a lower tier defensive player that can score. And he's way better than Bollig, so there's something to consider. In my mind, Bollig's 1.25 million would be much better spent on a player like Grabner and Grabner's ability would give the Flames more time to devolop a player like Garnet Hathaway or Freddie Hamilton.
The next player on our list? Kyle Okposo