Fans: Leafs overpaid for Grabovski

Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski celebrates a goal against the Bruins at the Air Canada Centre...

Maple Leafs forward Mikhail Grabovski celebrates a goal against the Bruins at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ont., March 6, 2012. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:52 AM ET

TORONTO - By the time the opening faceoff had taken place at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, Toronto Sun readers already had made their voices heard concerning Mikhail Grabovski’s contract extension.

And for the majority of you, it was a collective thumbs down.

As Grabovski’s Maple Leafs and the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins were doing battle on their first shift, a whopping 2,649 respondents had answered the torontosun.com poll question: Did the Leafs overpay for Mikhail Grabovski.

The results?

In the end, an overwhelming 1,754 of you claimed general manager Brian Burke was too generous in locking up Grabovski to a five-year, $27.5-million US deal, a pact that was announced by the team Tuesday morning (sans $ figures, of course).

There were, on the other hand, a significant number of you who were in Grabovski’s corner. In fact, 895 voters thought the speedy Maple Leafs centre received market value for his new deal.

When you break down those numbers, 66% of those who took part in our survey felt the Leafs overpaid for Grabovski, who is now locked up through 2017. The other 34% supported the move, at least from a financial standpoint.

The fact that there were more “nays” than “yeas” in this poll is not surprising, especially when you consider that Grabovski is now the second highest-paid player on the team after Dion Phaneuf. Yes, that includes Phil Kessel, whose cap hit of $5.4 million next season is less than Grabovski’s $5.5 million.

But this is far from a black and white issue. Indeed, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this deal, as well as analyzing why the Leafs would go this way.

First off, the Leafs are wafer-thin up the middle. That’s no shot at Grabovski or Tyler Bozak, a kid who is having an impressive season in his own right, but let’s face it: Is there a legitimate No. 1 centre on this roster?

Probably not.

At the same time, the Leafs are limited in their options to augment that position in the off-season, barring a blockbuster trade that general manager Brian Burke might be able to put together. Then again, after the ornery Irishman stood pat at the trade deadline, his ballooning legion of critics wonder if he still has the magic to pull off another Tomas Kaberle or Dion Phaneuf swap, two deals that worked out in the Leafs favour.

While Brad Richards was the big prize on the free agent market last summer, the available crop of centres this July 1 is, in a word, mediocre.

Olli Jokinen. Chris Kelly. Saku Koivu. Jarret Stoll. Doesn’t really seem to be a top-line centre in the group, at least not at this point in their respective careers.

At first blush, there does not seem to be a lot of options available.

Had the Leafs not inked Grabovski long term, he probably would have received a similar amount of money on the open market for the same reason — a lack of top centres to pursue.

Right now, it seems there are lots of inflated contracts being handed out around the league. Look at the two-year, $10-million pact recently given to injury-prone Ales Hemsky in Edmonton. The term isn’t bad, but the salary definitely is high.

Maybe Burke figures the centre position will be adequately addressed if Joe Colborne joins Bozak, Grabovski, Connolly and Steckel next season.

Having said all that, it says here that the 66% of you who answered the poll by saying Grabovski is being paid too much have legitimate beef. We agree — it’s too much money.

Grabovski is a No. 2 centre making the amount of money for a No. 1. Moreover, he is making more per season than the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, David Krejci and John Tavares, three centres we would take over Grabovski at this point of their careers.

When all is said and done, the readers have spoken. And they don’t like the deal.

Not that the Leafs care at this point. All that matters to them is that, for the next five years, Grabovski is under contract to them.


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