Saturday, 24 August 2013

New Faces In New Places

Two of the key free agents are off the market with Mikhail Grabovski and Douglas Murray signing contracts with new teams. There are still a number of solid players available, but with teams tight against the cap, the window to sign these players at what would be considered fair market value is closing fast. However, the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens feel they have upgraded to positions of weakness with their signings.

There was lots of talk this summer about Mikhail Grabovski joining a couple of teams, but the one team always mentioned was the Washington Capitals. The Capitals finally put that rumor to rest by officially signing Grabovski to a one-year, $3 million deal that will give the former Leaf a chance to play top-six minutes as a playmaking forward. While he may not line up beside Ovechkin regularly, there's no doubt that Grabovski will be given the opportunity to excel in Washington's system.

Adam Oates spent time speaking with Grabovski, and it appears the coach and player are on the same page already. "I like the system," Grabovski told reporters on a conference call. "I like that they're an offensive team and one of the teams who really wants me. General manager and coach, everybody wants me and they like how I play before. I chose Washington because they really trust me and I think I can help them."

While I had hoped that the Jets could talk Grabovski into coming to Winnipeg, I actually think he fits well in Washington. He likes to play the offensive game, but really showed a strong defensive side to his game last season in Toronto. If he can play a solid two-way game this season, people will quickly forget about Mike Ribeiro. If he reverts back to the old way he played, though, this could be a long season for Mikhail Grabovski.

The other team who needed to fill a void in terms of hitting and toughness on their blueline was the Montreal Canadiens, and they feel they have done that with the signing of Douglas Murray to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. Murray will certainly bring he physicality, but his foot speed might be called into question this upcoming season.

For a guy with seven goals and 55 assists in eight NHL seasons, you had better hope that Murray is out there clearing the front of the net at every turn. Otherwise, I'm not sure why the Habs need him when they may have cheaper alternatives in the minors.

The one concern that the Penguins had last season was Murray's speed. It looked like he was skating in quicksand some nights, but he was able to line up some monster hits in the playoffs. If there was one team that exposed Pittsburgh's defence, it was Montreal's division rival in the Boston Bruins. And, of course, Montreal will see Boston a lot this season. If Murray has improved his foot speed, though, this could be a decent signing.

Lastly, there are still a couple of decent players on the market. Brenden Morrow, Guillaume Latendresse, Brad Boyes, Damien Brunner, Mason Raymond, and Tim Connolly can be had for the right price. The only question is whether there are any teams needing these players at the asking price.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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