NHL players are just like you and me. During their free agency period, they do their fair share of job hunting and interviewing. And, every now and then, they require a letter of recommendation.
Case in point: before the Washington Capitals signed Mikhail Grabovski to a surprising one year, $3 million contract, they spoke to one of his former bosses, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.
In an interview with the The Washington Post, Burke claims Capitals GM George McPhee reached out to him to ask how he felt about the Russian forward. Grabovski spent five seasons in Toronto, the bulk of which were under the tutelage of Burke. His former boss had nothing but positive things to say.
“We exchanged emails and I told him what I thought,” Burke said Monday. “I think Grabovski is just a class act, he’s a warrior on the ice, he’s a gym rat off the ice. His preparation is unbelievable, he’s very serious about being a good hockey player and he was a joy while I had him in Toronto. He was a joy to have on the team.”
Can’t get a better vote of confidence than that, can you? It was Burke who signed Grabovski to a monster $27.5 million contract with the Leafs. Toronto opted to buy out of said deal this offseason, in order to try and manage their cap.
Burke, however, believes some of it might have to do with a lack of chemistry with Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. For what it’s worth, he thinks Washington coach Adam Oates will have better luck.
“I think Oates, he doesn’t have a big body of work yet, but I think he’s an excellent coach,” Burke said. “I think the players trust him and like him, I think that’s the kind of coach – Randy Carlyle is a great coach, but he didn’t see eye-to-eye with [Grabovski] and I think Adam probably will. I think it will be a good change for him.”
The fact that Grabovski went from a $27.5 million deal to $3 million with Washington is pretty astounding. He had back-to-back 50+ point seasons before this year’s lockout shortened campaign. Maybe Burke is on to something in terms of issues with Carlyle.
Either way, its win-win for Washington. If Grabovski struggles, the team only committed a small flyer on him. If he excels, especially with fellow countryman Alexander Ovechkin, its a flat out steal.
Time will tell, but Grabovski now knows he’s got a very emphatic supporter in his corner.