The Leafs have acquired Islanders forward Michael Grabner for five prospects.
We are just a few days away from preseason games, and the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs made a trade. It was the kind of trade you see in a fantasy hockey league because it’s “here take all my nothings for a useful player.” The entire trade reads as follows:
— Stephen Whyno (@SWhyno) September 17, 2015
Ok so “nothings” may be a bit harsh. The only two players I see that the Leafs gave up who may be useful players are forward Carter Verhaeghe and defenceman Matt Finn. Everyone else is just filling roster spots at the non-NHL level.
Verhaeghe is a former third round pick from 2013 who won’t be cracking the NHL this year, and due to decent centre depth at the non-NHL level, may not be in the AHL. Finn is a second round pick from 2012 that spent time in the ECHL this past season. And those are the two good pieces coming back for Grabner.
One thing I will say for Toronto is this is a bit odd. Grabner seems like a guy you would add if you feel the need to add a piece for a playoff push, not a guy you give up five prospects for when you’re rebuilding. In Shanny We Trust, I guess.
For fantasy purposes, the guy to talk about is obviously Grabner, who has one year left at $3-million.
Grabner has had a very, very weird NHL career. He scored 34 goals as a rookie in 2010-2011, scored 20 goals in 2011-2012, and has 36 total goals since. The last couple of seasons have been marred by injury, but this is what stands out to me: out of 242 forwards with at least 3000 five-on-five minutes over the last five seasons, Grabner is tenth in goals per 60 minutes. The only players ahead of him are Steven Stamkos, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Max Pacioretty, Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Seguin, and Jamie Benn. That means he’s ahead of guys like Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Jeff Carter, James Neal, Marian Gaborik, and so on. The problem, of course, is that he hasn’t played 15 minutes per game in any of the last three seasons.
Grabner has fantastic speed, but sometimes seems like his feet are ahead of his hands, and it can make him frustrating to watch at times. He can kill penalties, forecheck very well, and contribute on the score sheet. I will be interested to see where he lands on the roster. If he can somehow lock down a spot next to Nazem Kadri, he could be in line for a bounce back season. If he can’t stay in the top-six, though, it will be hard for him to have much value in standard fantasy hockey leagues. There just isn’t a whole lot to play with in Toronto down the middle this year outside of Kadri, so Grabner going from playing with Brock Nelson and Frans Nielsen to playing with Tyler Bozak and Peter Holland would be a clear step down.