Keeping Michael Grabner is now a priority

Grabner scores (Brad Penner/USAT)

Michael Grabner scored his 26th goal last night in a Garden win over Nashville. He is on pace to shatter his career high of 34 and is flirting with his first ever 40 goal season. More importantly, the chemistry he has developed with center, Kevin Hayes and winger, J.T. Miller make it paramount that the Rangers keep the 29 year old speedster.

Keeping Grabner

On July 1st, the Rangers struck gold when they signed Grabner for 2 years at 1.6M per. They did it primarily to add speed to their bottom 6 and replace a little of what they lost in Carl Hagelin. What they’ve gotten is so much more.

For the record, Hagelin did indeed have a magical run with Pittsburgh last season but only has 6 goals this year. Hagelin also never scored more than 17 goals in his career and he’s 28 years old…meaning what you see is what you get.

Grabner scored 34 goals in 2011 (his first full NHL season), 20 in 2012, and 16 in the lockout shortened season of 2013. That year he was flirting with the 40 goal mark also before tailing off the next two seasons. That led to an exile to Toronto which was void of talent and clueless from the top down.

All the while, Grabner never lost his speed or his ability to create chances using it. The biggest difference now is he’s playing on a skilled team with a coach that plays to his strengths. It has been without a doubt, one of the Rangers most successful free agent signings since Dan Girardi in 2006.

Grabner USATSI

Cause for Concern?

There is one number that sets off alarm bells…


That is Michael Grabner’s shooting percentage and is not sustainable longterm. His career average is closer to 12%, but the good news is this; at that rate Grabner would still be 3rd on the team in goals with 15.

Still, it is what he’s doing on the ice that doesn’t always show up on the scoresheet that makes that number a non factor in my decision to keep him. Don’t take my word for it, listen to his linemate J.T. Miller. When discussing his assist on Grabner’s goal versus the Ducks he said:

“It happens a lot, really, through the game, when we have possession of the puck and he’s already going. That’s what makes him so good. He makes everyone around him look really good, but he’s the one making the play and he’s always moving his feet.” – via NYPOST

Moving his feet, getting in front, and being a physical force on the ice are all assets the Rangers need. Plus on a line with Hayes (24 y/o) and Miller (23 y/o) he’s the veteran presence at 29.

Protect Grabner At All Costs

You hear a lot of arguments for trading Grabner. The three top reasons to trade him at the deadline are as follows:

  • His value will never be higher
  • He’s not going to score at this rate again
  • He’s 29 years old
  • Rangers wil lose him to the expansion draft

In fairness, these are all valid arguments but I believe that they are wrong.

While it is true his value will never be higher, you still won’t get what he’s worth to the Rangers. The Rangers are playoff bound and Grabner has proven to be their best scoring threat. So why are you throwing away this season, especially if you advocate that Henrik Lundqvist‘s window to win is closing.

As I mentioned before, he won’t continue to score at this pace but he can still score on this team. He’s in phenomenal shape so age is no issue. The evidence is mounting up to keep him.

Finally, the Rangers WILL lose Grabner to expansion for the SAME REASONS they should keep him. Las Vegas will take Grabner because he’s affordable at 1.6M and can score. In a cap league that is the same reason why the Rangers should be keeping him, especially with the Mika Zibanejad becoming an RFA.

It won’t be easy

Listen, the Rangers are going to lose somebody of value to expansion so it’s unavoidable. The Rangers will likely protect 8 skaters and one goaltender but can only lose one player. That means if they expose Raanta it could all end there.

The Rangers would have to ask Girardi and Nash to expose themselves in order to protect other players but let’s not count on that. Add Marc Staal and Derek Stepan due to no move clauses and the Rangers can only protect 4 other players with 3 or more years experience. Kreider, McDonagh and Miller are a given which means that the Rangers will be forced to decide between Grabner, Zibanejad, or Zuccarello.

If the Rangers have any hope of keeping Grabner they will have to try and convince at least Girardi to expose himself to the draft. At his salary it is highly unlikely they would take him. Even then, the Rangers would be forced to expose Zuccarello who would be a sure goner.

As you can see the Rangers are in a serious pickle. A situation that we may only gain clarity on after the deadline.



  • I think Grabner’s scoring is sustainable and in this system he would have success beyond this year, but I don’t think it’s smart to value him over Zuccarello or Zibanejad. Both of those players have more value and sustainability IMO.

  • So are you saying they can expose Staal? If that be the case then problem solved.

  • First off lets not disrespect Hagelin since the only reason he was gone was due to cap space and Hagelin would excel on the NYR!!! The NYR have a lot of members that would be a great fit for Vegas that are not protected, you forgot to include Holden who Quenneville will take in a heartbeat over any other NYR. Regarding Girardi let’s not forget Vegas must come up towards the cap space needed so I think Girardi would be an answer on the D since he is a veteran that can help other young players and his cap hit could help Vegas get to the numbers they need to be at to open. The Rangers could also buy him out so they can save Holden if they can’t trade Girardi which is most likely since the Rangers will take Shattenkirk 6 to 6.5 hometown discount cap hit. I can see the Rangers trying to move Staal and take some of that cap hit as well once Shattenkrik gets here as well. Personally I would like to see Clenndening get more of a chance since we still have Nash cap hit at 7.8. I would keep Nash and sign him next year for much cheaper he wants to stay!!! No matter how you look at it stinks on ice we have to lose a player of such quality!!!

  • This love affair with Clenndenning drives me nuts. Agreed the Rangers should give Geratdi, Klein and Staal more nights off , when healthy or when the teams play smaller or less aggressive forechecking teams .
    We are all aware , that there will be changes to the Rangers blue line either after the trade deadline or during free agency .
    It wouldn’t surprise me if they
    – expose Gerardi ( & buy him out ) or
    – trade Staal ( allowing him to play with his brother ) &/ or
    – trade Stepan ( before his contract allows him to become a no trade )
    These moves could enable the Rangers to add quality future draft choices, and enable the Rangers to protect players like Grabner & Holden.
    If the one or all of the above moves are not made , expect Raanta, Holden , Klein , Grabner or Fast to be taken by Vegas . No matter what happens , the Rangers will loss a quality player ?

    • From my understanding you can only lose one player from each team so they just have to decide who they can protect. Clendening is not an option AV won’t play him so it does not matter what he does just like Fast will always be in the lineup. I hope Gorton can come up with a plan to keep Grabner.

      • Offer a mid round pick to protect him. Those talks can start on March 1, assuming Vegas has paid their last payment for the buy in amount. At that point Vegas can make trades that to not take an exposed player.

    • I have no argument on the Girardi statement, expose trade (retaining salary) or buyout. That being highly doubt that Staal wont be here next season. If he wanted to go to Carolina, he had his opportunity when all 3 brothers were there but he chose to sign his deal here. Jared (the supposed best of the group always heard that as he was a prospect) is in the United Kingdom Elite league. Jordan is still in Carolina. Assuming you mean Eric, there is no way the Wild would have any interest in Marc, they have younger, better cheaper, locked up, defensemen.

      Holden is nothing to lose sleep over being taken.

  • Anthony,

    I think you are wrong on one thing. I think the Rangers opt for 7 forwards 3 defensemen 1 goalie to be protected over the 8 skaters/1 goalie option. Teams like the Jets (assuming Trouba is still on the roster) will go the 8/1 route Byfuglien, Enstrom, must be protected, cant afford to lose Myers or Trouba for nothing, they also dont have alot of forwards that arent exempt from that would be huge losses. For the Rangers, my reasoning regardless of the Staal/Girardi situation Ill address Girardi after, they must protect Nash/Hank (neither would waive to go there), and exposing Mac would be silly. Going 8/1 only allows 4 forwards not named Nash to be protected. The only way Raanta isnt exposed (can only protect one goalie in either situation) if he is traded at the deadline or as the season ends, before the draft happens. The 7/3/1 or allows you to protect 6 additional forwards where the 8 skaters allows you to protect 4 forwards. Mika/Stepan/Kreider/Miller/Hayes/Zucc all will be protected. Skjei/Vesey do not meet the exposure requirements.

    Getting Girardi to waive and trading something, if legal, I know you can trade to not take but I am not sure if you can trade for Vegas to claim, would be best for the Rangers. Even if it means giving up a first or a Gropp to get him clean off the books. If Girardi is unwilling to waive then buying him out becomes an option but must be done by June 30th. Girardi is required to give a 15 team list he would not go to on July 1, now he could play hardball and not give it until July 1 after the deadline of buyout (second window only opens if a player goes to and gets an awarded salary at arbitration), but Gorton has the power to get that list earlier with the threat of a buyout which would cost Girardi 4.29 million, sure he can sign at low amount and recoup some but will he recoup the whole amount over several years Im not sure. Girardi is an NHL defenseman regardless of what some peoples hate will tell them, what he is not is a first pair defenseman, worth his contract, or able to play in AV’s system. But he can still play for the right system and a low cost, look at Roszival. Going the 7/3 doesnt matter about protecting Girardi if you cant trade something for them to take him or if they wouldnt accept anything to take that contract because that would only save Holden from exposure who can be replaced if selected. Of course trading for a defenseman now that is under contract or has rfa rights would require Girardi to waive for exposure or bought out to protect that player brought in.

    Grabner has value their is no doubt about it, but there is also a large chance of buyers remorse for Vegas to take him over the other players that will be available. Before this season, his last 3 seasons he has 29 goals over 178 games, this season 26 over 53. That would scare me, if they dont have players to create the chemistry that he has with Miller and Hayes, and a system similar to AV’s then he could very well become the 10 goal player he was for the last 3 years and then a UFA next offseason. Protecting him over Zucc would be even worse, Zucc has much more value around the league with his consistency that he has shown through his career. Exposing Grabner on paper and then protecting him with a pick would be the best bet, cheaper pick then exposing one of other forwards and protecting them with a pick.

    I expect one of these players to be taken in the draft Fast/Lindberg/Holden/Klein/Raanta. Klein has the least value when looking at the other players, however with one year on his deal and them having to reach about 43 million in selected players he could be taken, hoping he plays better and they move him at the following deadline hoping to bring back an asset in form of a pick for a team looking for defensive depth for the playoffs. This can be said about Grabner but bottom pair defensemen cost more to aqcuire than bottom pair forwards, if Grabner was taken and didnt fit in Vegas. Either way our main pieces are protected.

  • Hate to say because i come hear to read up a lot on the Blueshirts, but please do not write an article before checking the facts. You are wrong on so many fronts.
    #1) Currently the only guys the Rangers are forced to protect are Nash, Girardi, Staal, Hank. Stepan IS NOT a forced protection as his NMC does not kick in until after the expansion draft.
    #2) The Rangers will not choosing to protect the 8skaters/1goalie scenario. They will be using the 7F/3D/1G situation. As someone above mentioned, the league institued the 8/1 option for teams that are heavy on D but short on F to better the chances that LV gets either a 2nd line F or a 2nd pairing D. The Rangers would be flat out dumb to purposely choose to protect less players when there strength is on the offensive side of the puck.
    – With that being said, it means nothing for Grabner what Staal or Girardi do with their NMC’s (and there is no way Staal will move his as he has a full NMC/NTC for life of contract) because the Rangers would be protecting McD no matter what the circumstance. Girardi is much more likely to waive his NMC, but he is tradable after 7/1 and if he doesnt play nice they Buyout option is a real possibility with the cost of millions to his wallet…HOWEVER…All this would allow is for us to use his spot on protecting Holden or (PLEASEPLEASEPLEASE) A top pair RHD that we can acquire via trade over the next 3 weeks.

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