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|5 июля 2013 года.
Grabovski divorce complete // Toronto Star
In the end, Mikhail Grabovski no longer fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Especially under head coach Randy Carlyle.
The Leafs bought out Grabovski's contract Thursday, spending a little more than $14-million (all currency U.S.) to punt out the door a player who had become incredibly divisive in Leafs Nation primarily for his lack of offensive production.
The decision frees up another $5.5-million of salary cap space heading into the start of free agency on Friday, but there remains a hole at centre that will likely be just as pricey to fill.
The move was a mild surprise, if only because general manager David Nonis had spoken of Grabovski returning to Toronto and challenging for more ice time just a few days earlier at the NHL draft, seemingly hopeful of a rebound season.
But for those who had followed Grabovski's difficult 2013 campaign closely - a tumultuous half-year filled with illness and controversy - the news was less than shocking.
The relationship between a team and key offensive player has rarely hit a downward spiral this quickly. Grabovski had become an unlikely top-line centre under the Leafs' previous head coach, Ron Wilson, scoring 47 goals in in the final 139 games of Wilson's watch and turning into a quirky fan favourite.
But after Toronto bottomed out after a strong start to the 2011-12 season, Wilson was fired in March. Four days later, after just one game under Carlyle, the Leafs gave Grabovski a five-year extension for $27.5-million.
The money was handed over somewhat begrudgingly, after months of tense negotiations, with Grabovski's agent playing hardball and the organization desperate given its lack of options down the middle.
From the beginning, it was clear Grabovski didn't fit in under Carlyle, who put him on the ice for mostly defensive-zone faceoffs and against other teams' top lines more often than most forwards in the NHL.
After scoring more goals than all but 11 centres league-wide in his previous two seasons, Grabovski was playing a role similar to defence-first players such as Boyd Gordon, Mike Fisher, Brandon Sutter and Maxime Talbot.
He didn't appear to enjoy the shift but also didn't complain publicly, even as he played through a difficult digestive ailment that affected his health and wasn't revealed until late in the season.
The combined effect of the new role and his health issues took their toll, and Grabovski's offensive totals fell dramatically to just 16 points in 48 games.
There was much discussion when Carlyle was hired of how he would adapt the Leafs' then-struggling roster to play a grittier, meat-and-potatoes style. Ultimately, Grabovski became the highest-profile casualty of that.
Now, the question becomes: How does Nonis use his new-found wealth to find improvements elsewhere, after already filling Grabovski's defensive minutes by acquiring Dave Bolland in a draft-day trade?
Toronto enters Friday's free-agency start with $24.5-million in salary cap space - more than 28 other NHL teams - but more than 50 per cent of that is earmarked for restricted free agents, including Nazem Kadri, Jonathan Bernier, Carl Gunnarsson and Cody Franson.
Once they are factored in, Nonis is really working with between $10-million and $12-million to fill his remaining holes, which include a No. 1 centre, second-line right winger and help on defence.