Last week in an interview with Puck Daddy's Dmitry Chesnokov, Mikhail Grabovski's agent Gary Greenstin took the mystery out of his client's impending free agency.
He said Grabovski "wants to play for the Leafs for many years and win the Stanley Cup with them," and that "I am positive that we will make a deal."
How prophetic: Grabo and the Toronto Maple Leafs announced a 5-year contract extension on Tuesday:
"We are extremely pleased to have Mikhail under contract for the next five seasons," said Burke. "His speed and skill are valuable commodities and fit perfectly with our style of play. He leads by example and his work ethic speaks for itself."
Grabovski, 28, has registered 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists), a plus-seven (+7) rating and 18 penalty minutes in 59 games with the Maple Leafs this season. The 5-11, 183-pound centreman currently ranks first on Toronto in plus/minus and third in goals and points in 2011-12, and he was named the NHL's First Star of the Week for the period ending January 30.
Via David Alter of Sportsnet, the contract is worth $5.5 million per season. That cap hit would make him the highest-paid forward on the Leafs.
The No. 1 comparable I've seen referenced these days is Tomas Plekanec of the Montreal Canadiens, who is making $5-million a season on a six-year deal that started last season.
(A few other names are those of David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, both with the Bruins and both making relatively similar money to Plekanec.)
That puts Grabovski in the $4.5-million to $5.5-million range and likely means Burke will have to move out another body to free up that kind of raise.
Burke landed on the high end, but it's not as if Grabovski wouldn't have gotten that this summer.
On a roster filled with inconsistent offensive players and middling talent down the lineup, Grabovski's the exception. He's highly skilled, and would have been highly coveted on the free-agent market. He's also a gamer: Consider that 13 of his 20 goals have been scored away from home, and half of his goals have come against division opponents. (Phil Kessel, by comparison, has scored 23 of 32 at home.)
So there should be much joy in Toronto over this signing. Well, outside of Don Cherry's dressing room, where he's currently phoning Ontario-born youth hockey players to console them about a no-good Belarussian taking their eventual roster spot with the Leafs...