With the highly awaited NHL free agency period rapidly approaching (July 1st), an abundance of ‘big-name players’ will instantly become hot commodities, hitting the open market.
In essence, free agency typically offers various under-the-radar, diamond in the rough type players. An overlooked, undiscussed name entering free agency: Michael Grabner, formerly of the New Jersey Devils.
The Florida Panthers indubitably possess a simply skilled top 6 forward group; however, a glaring weakness Florida currently contains would be their lack of scoring depth on the bottom 6 forward unit. By adding a proven veteran such as Michael Grabner, the Panthers would essentially solidify and substantially bolster their 3rd line.
Furthermore, Grabner would ultimately provide a consistent scoring punch and a much-needed veteran presence on the inexperienced Panthers’ 3rd line, consisting of potential candidates such as Denis Malgin, Frank Vatrano, Owen Tippett, etc.
In addition, considering Grabner’s value has noticeably declined – registered an abysmal slash line of 2G, 3A, and 5 points in 21 games with the NJD during the second half of the season – General Manager Dale Tallon could potentially land the Austrian native on a bargain contract.
As means of proving himself worthy of a long-term contract, Grabner could opt for possibly accepting a short-term deal, in the field of 1 year worth $2.5-3M AAV. Grabner received $1.65M following a 27 goal campaign, so teams are evidently reluctant regarding distributing long-terms offers toward Michael Grabner. The New York Rangers were even hesitant in offering Michael a contract extension following an outstanding 2016-17 campaign.
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In essence, perhaps playing alongside younger, promising linemates could enhance the overall offensive productivity of Grabner. The 30-year-old, sharp-shooting sniper could potentially experience similar success compared to his playing days as a New York Ranger. In the 2016-17 and 2017-18 campaigns as a NYR (played in blue for one and a half years), Grabner posted goal totals of 27 and 25, respectively. Moreover, Grabner’s success as a Ranger could translate as a Florida Panther, especially if the Cats build up a strong third line, which would give Michael the opportunity to succeed.
Additionally, Grabner would significantly proliferate the penalty killing unit for the Florida Panthers, forming a highly formidable duo with the likes of PK specialist Colton Sceviour. Therefore, Aleksander Barkov, who frequently kills penalties alongside Sceviour, would receive more breaks, thus allowing the Finnish sensation to carry less of a work load throughout the game.
Also, Michael has been widely recognized as a dominant penalty killer in the NHL for a plethora of years, scoring a myriad of short-handed goals (15 career shorties), as well as contributing tremendously towards a high percentage of successfully killed penalties.
Considering Grabner would be a potential cost-effective addition, Dale Tallon could easily snatch the savvy veteran in the beginning of the free agency period. Tallon, widely known across the NHL for proficient negotiating skills, could attract/entice Michael Grabner by pitching the tremendous opportunity which would be offered to the Austrian winger.
While playing for the Devils, Grabner found himself healthy-scratched for numerous playoff contests (played a grand total of 2 playoff games with the Devils). However, considering FLA’s a smaller market, with significantly less media coverage and overall pressure, Grabner could potentially thrive in a completely different playing environment, feeling more comfortable and relaxed with the aspect of playing hockey.
Ultimately, Dale Tallon should strongly place some consideration into bringing Michael Grabner aboard. While NHL clubs will be throwing a boatload of money towards ‘popular-name players,’ FLA could be uncovering a complete steal by signing the inexpensive, yet productive Michael Grabner.