February 22, 2012
Grabovski doesn't want to go
By DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - With the NHL trade deadline fast approaching, you have to figure some Maple Leafs are getting a little antsy — especially those whose names keep popping up as possible trade bait. You could count speedy centre Mikhail Grabovski among them.
What makes Grabovski’s situation a little more tenuous than, say, defenceman Luke Schenn’s, is that he can be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. Schenn, meanwhile, signed a new deal before the start of the season.
UFAs have contracts that expire this summer and, without a contract extension, they are free to sign with any team they choose on July 1. That makes current teams a little more likely to deal them, to make sure they get some compensation for the leaving player.
Leafs general manager Brian Burke has said he doesn’t make trade decisions based on a player’s free-agent status, but you have to figure the tires have been kicked on Grabovski more than once.
However, the centre said after the Leafs’ morning skate on Tuesday that he wasn’t thinking about the Feb. 27 deadline, nor had he talked to the team about his contract.
“Right now I’m focussed on the games and the playoffs,” Grabovski said. “I have an agent for that. He’ll tell me if something is happening.”
Asked if he had heard anything from his agent, the Belarusian replied: “I have no idea.”
Grabovski has said he likes playing in Toronto, and that he doesn’t want to leave. In the end he might get his wish. Interest from other teams could wane quickly if he doesn’t start producing again. He hadn’t recorded a point in six games heading into last night’s contest against the New Jersey Devils.
“Goals come from every part of the line,” Grabovski said of his recent lack of production. “If something doesn’t work, we just need to shoot more pucks on the net. I think that’s the key.”
HURTS SO GOOD
Swedish defenceman Carl Gunnarsson said after the morning skate that his ankle injury hadn’t healed 100%, but that it was a lot better and he was ready to play against the Devils. When asked by a reporter if injured players were more likely to dress at this time of the season with playoff spots on the line, Gunnarsson admitted that players play injured throughout the year.
“Not only this time of year, the whole year someone has a taped ankle or a bad wrist, it could be anything,” he said. “But you’re basically never 100% out there.”
Gunnarsson was back in the lineup for the first time since Feb. 13 when he injured himself in practice by falling awkwardly into the boards. He missed three games, all in western Canada.
HOW SWEDE IT IS
Speaking of Gunnarsson, his compatriot Jonas Gustavsson had some kind words for him after the morning skate and seemed somewhat relieved that the 6-foot-2, 196-pound blueliner was returning from a three-game absence.
“When he’s missing, it’s a big loss for us,” the netminder said. “He’s a great player and he has developed quite a lot this year. He just keeps getting better and better. He’s always calm out there and he handles the puck well. It feels good to have him back.”
Heading into last night’s contest, Gunnarsson led all Leafs in blocked shots with 124 and was second in average ice-time per game at 22:11.
Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson gave a shoutout to University of Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves when talking about rookie defenceman Jake Gardiner.
Wilson was asked what has helped Gardiner come along so quickly this season.
“He’s learned, before he got here, how to protect himself and move a puck along quickly and out of his own end as quick as possible. The things he does are very similar to what (Nashville Predators defenceman) Ryan Suter does, so you’d have to give his college coach, Mike Eaves, a lot of credit.”
Gardiner played for the University of Wisconsin for three seasons from 2008, while Suter was with the Badgers during the 2003-04 season.