New York Rangers hit the jackpot with Michael Grabner

With 30-year-old Austrian winger Michael Grabner being eligible for free agency in July, there’s a good chance the New York Rangers will deal him by the Feb. 26thtrade deadline. If they do, Grabner should fetch a fine return since he’s been red hot on Broadway over the past two seasons. The Rangers signed him to a two-year contract as a free agent prior to the 2016/17 season at just $1.65 million a year. The club has already gotten its money’s worth out of the speedster and this could be greatly compounded if he’s traded by the deadline.

After scoring just nine goals and nine assists in 80 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015/16, Grabner’s signing in New York was seen as nothing more than a minor deal. However, his career’s now back on track after lighting up the lamp on a regular basis. The right winger was originally drafted 14thoverall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2006. He scored 11 points for the Canucks in 20 games in 2009/10 and also racked up 120 points in 180 appearances for the Manitoba Moose of the AHL. Yet for some reason Vancouver traded him to the Florida Panthers in June of 2010.

In another odd move, Florida then placed Grabner on waivers at the start of the 2010/11 season and unsurprisingly he was taken quickly by the New York Islanders. Grabner’s 34 goals and 52 points that season proved the Islanders had made a shrewd move by picking him up. He scored the eighth-most goals and even-strength markers in the NHL and was named to the All-Rookie Team. Grabner’s goal production dipped steadily after his first season on the island though as he scored 20, 16, 12 and eight times over the next four campaigns before being traded to Toronto.

Things didn’t improve with the Leafs either, but he suddenly caught fire when he signed with the Rangers. Grabner’s first season back in the Big Apple resulted in 27 goals and 13 assists in 76 contests and a plus-22 ranking. Twenty-six of his goals and 37 of his 40 points came with his team at even strength and he added four goals and six points in a dozen playoff outings. Grabner’s kept up the pace this season with 25 goals and six assists in his first 59 games, which ranked him 16th in goals scored. He’s also a plus-11 on the struggling team and has been a standout once again at even strength with all but one of his goals coming five-on-five.

This places Grabner in the top five for even-strength goals over the past two seasons as he placed ninth last year and is currently ranked third this season. His shooting percentage was 16.7 last season to rank sixth-best in the league and it’s improved to 19.1 this year, which is fourth-best for all players with at least 15 goals. With his explosive speed, Grabner is a breakaway threat every time he’s on the ice and he’s also become an excellent penalty killer because of it. He’s also a streak scorer as he’s been top 10 in the league three times for hat tricks in a season. In addition, he’s been top-five in shorthanded goals on two occasions.

It’s likely the Rangers will deal Grabner by the trade deadline since the club looks set to miss the playoffs and plans on entering a rebuilding stage. He should be worth quite a bit on the trade market due to his performance over the past two years, his age and his salary. When free agency rolls around next summer there’s a good chance Grabner’s fine play since 2016 will result in a considerable pay raise. And although he hasn’t picked up many assists with the Rangers, his goal tally has been quite impressive.  

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