64Michael Grabner
Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Flames free agent targets: Michael Grabner

One of the primary needs for the Calgary Flames this offseason has been to upgrade their forward depth. Following their acquisition of Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Hurricanes – an upgrade on Micheal Ferland – the Flames are likely still looking around for some options, particularly on the wings.

Unrestricted free agent Micheal Grabner is a versatile veteran, but is he the right fit for the Flames’ needs?

A product of Austria, the 30-year-old Grabner was introduced to North American hockey during his tenure with the Western Hockey League’s Spokane Chiefs – he played for now-Flames head coach Bill Peters there. He scored over 30 goals twice during three seasons in the Dub and was a first round selection of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2006 NHL Draft; the Flames took Leland Irving that year.

Grabner has played 553 NHL games split between the Canucks, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers and New York Islanders – he’s actually been on four teams over the past four seasons. He’s scored more than 20 goals in four different seasons and has scored 27 goals in each of the past two seasons. He seems a pretty decent bet to generate 30 or 35 points in a secondary role, but could push the 40-point mark under the right circumstances.

That said, he’s a bit less impressive once you dive into his numbers. He has shown the ability throughout his career to play fairly well despite being given more defensive than offensive zone starts, but for the majority of his career he hasn’t been a tremendously effective possession player. He hasn’t broken the 50% Corsi For level since 2014-15 with the Islanders, and he’s been a negative Corsi Rel player in all but two of his full NHL seasons (including his last four), meaning he’s not usually one of the players driving possession for his teams. He also doesn’t score a ton at even strength, meaning that to get the most out of him he’ll need to be given some combination of good linemates, offensive zone starts, and special teams time.

Grabner’s a flawed player, but he’s still got some good attributes. He’s a strong penalty killer. He’s whip-fast and can generate momentum for his team with his speed. As previously mentioned, he’s capable of scoring 20-plus goals and has done so recently. He’s a left shot that can play either wing, and he’s got some familiarity with both Peters and new associate coach Geoff Ward, who had him briefly in New Jersey this past season. He’d be a better fit if he were a right shot, but his knowledge of the coaching staff would likely ease his transition into the team and its systems.

The challenge would be landing Grabner at a palatable cap number. He’s coming off a deal that paid him $1.65 million per season, and Matt Cane’s projection has him coming in at around $3.8 million. For a player that doesn’t drive possession or score a ton at even strength – and is functionally a special teams specialist – that’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow with all the other big ticket deals the Flames are likely to sign in the near future.


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  • Craigster

    I hope I don’t hear a signing by the Flames on day one. Id like to see them gamble on forward who’s numbers aren’t great because they’ve been buried on a third or fourth line, and would like to come here for the opportunity to possibly play on the top line.

  • Keith Chucky

    Let me be the first to say NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    As others have said on other UFA’s, we d not need a 30yo elder tat needs a cane to get across the ice.
    4 Teams in 4 years????? I think there is a reason for that. Everyone ever on our fourth line has had better results than his. (yes I am exaggerating, but not by much). Right hand shot or not, we do not need ANY of bucklenucks deadbeats.

    • Styxx

      Grabner is the cheapest of the UFA RWs but he is not worth anywhere close to $3.8M. I can only shudder at the term being asked for as well.

      Rather than overpaying for a UFA I’d rather deal Brodie to get Kessel (with $2M retained) or Hayes. An outside shot would be ROR which would add strength down the middle (Monahan, ROR, Backlund, Janko). However with Tre meeting D Ryan this seems highly unlikely, particularly after the failed gamble of trading away all our picks this year.

      Tre looks like he’s done with the core Top 9; however overall scoring is still an issue…Frolik, Bennett, Mangiapane, Janko…are any of them going to get 20? That leaves 5 guys to do the heavy lifting in the Top 9 including Lindholm and Backs. For my money a proven scorer is still required to truly compete in our division much less the conference.

        • Styxx

          Monahan, Tkachuk, Gaudreau ….will likely average 27 goals between them.
          Backs & Lindholm ….40% chance they both get 20
          Frolik, Bennett, Mangi, Janko…60% chance this group averages 16 goals
          This means even if we over these odds and our Top 9 achieves these numbers, that they’ll score 185 goals. Flames would need 75 goals from their 4th line and defence to be 9th place in scoring last year to be a contender. The 4th line can be counted on for ~20 and the defence ~30…leaving a gap of 25 goals.

          Flames would drop to the bottom half of team offence and no longer be considered a contender. So as far as building a cup contender…tinkering with the 4th line does nothing when we still need to address scoring in the Top 9.

      • everton fc

        Kessel. He’s a winner. He’s played every game since 2010, so he’s durable, even though he gets a lot of business about being out of shape – clearly he’s in pretty good shape. He’d make our first line one of the best in the league.

        Tkachuk might, as well.

        Still… I like that Peters is not set on Lindholm on the first line/RW, saying both Tkachuk and Bennett will get their looks. Saves money, if we can make one of those two options work – remember, we have to sign Matthew…

        O’Reilly pushing Jankowski down tot he 4th line makes no sense, to me. O’Reilly here, means either Jankowski or Backlund are going the other way. Which may be a good move, or may not. Who knows.

  • Mickey O

    Honestly think Treliving is done. He’ll sign Derek Ryan as another RHS as the 4C or 3RW who is very good on face-offs. Ryan Reaves added as the muscle.

    He’s left a spot open for a prospect, Foo looks to have the inside track. Mangiapane is a possibility, and Dube might be close but figures to start in the AHL.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      You could be right, but there must be a tremendous amount of pressure on him to sign another body (perhaps in addition to, or someone more flashy than) Ryan. I sure as heck hope we can count on one of the youngins, but I’m still hoping he signs another player (Duclair would be a wicked deal).

      • Mickey O

        There are some thoughts on how the line-up might look on yesterday’s Hanifan thread, after news surfaced that Ryan Reaves was getting wined and dined by Flames brass.

        Derek Ryan isn’t getting much love, but he’s a Rebar fav. and fits with what a re-balancing of the lefty/righty players looks like.

        • Rudy27

          With Ferland gone, we need someone like Reaves. Look how we had nobody to answer to Lucic last year when he took liberties with our goalie and others. Reaves did a pretty good job of keeping Byfuglien in check during the playoffs too.

          • Mickey O

            Yep, not sure the Minny players would have given Johnny the 21 slash salute either if Reaves was on the roster back. That Detroit game where all hell broke loose would have had a different outcome as well.

            St. Louis protected Ryan Reaves in the expansion draft, and the Pens gave up their first rounder for him. He’s a valuable cog in the machine, but others may disagree.

    • everton fc

      I hope they don’t add Reeves. Roussel could be had, and be more valuable – and is younger, and can score a little – and for not much more, perhaps, than Reeves will ask for. Roussel’s also a good team guy, a relentless forechecker, and scan skate. In a disciplined system like Peters, his “dumb penalties” will reduce…

  • Flamethrower

    If the Flames are going after a UFA shoot for the moon ie: Panarin then be willing to accept the loss of other players or prospects etc. For players that are ready to step up to the next level there will be no room.
    Still a firm believer in losing Brouwer/Hathaway anyway we can.
    I still would rather go with the young guys from our own stable. Players that have toiled in the AHL for three years either should be moved up or moved on.
    I my self really like the thought of Panarin on this club and would make this team very dangerous for many years to come. I don’t mind seeing the team spending money on a player of this caliber especially considering his age. Just my humble opinion.

    • Speed Kills

      Unfortunately from the rumor mills~> Panarin wants to play in either Los Angeles, New York (Rangers or Islanders), or Florida (not sure if Panthers and/or Lightning). Supposedly his GF is a model and would like someplace more friendly to her career.

    • JumpJet

      Panarin isn’t a UFA until next year, the Flames would have to trade for him. It would cost a lot, but probably be worth it for one of the most dynamic wingers in the game right now.

  • Trevy

    Hard pass…

    Side note, just reading on The Fourth Period that the Flyers tried to acquire Hamilton and offered Simmonds one for one. BT wanted Travis Sanheim or Phillipe Myers as well and Hextall wouldn’t budge. I’m only mentioning this as Hamilton’s value doesn’t seem as high as some perceive and that BT got decent haul in the end

    Also, looks like the worse kept secret will soon happen as Derek Ryan was in Calgary discussing contracts

    • The GREAT WW

      Strange that Philly would offer so little for Hamilton.
      On a previous thread I suggested Simmonds for Feland, posters on FN were saying we would be giving up too much for Simmonds…..


      • Baalzamon

        And I stand by that. Ferland, right now, is a better player than Simmonds is, right now. Simmonds is not the same player he was even two years ago. He’s a shell of his former self.

        • Mickey O

          Simmonds broke down badly last year. There is a lot of tough, tough minutes on that body. He’s a heart and soul guy for sure, but a 3rd liner / 2nd PP type guy. I hope for his sake he bounces back, but he’d be a huge risk.

      • Who is Alberta’s team?

        Ferland is better than Simmonds?? Simmonds numbers the last 3 years
        32 goals 60 pts
        31 goals 55 pts
        24 goals 46 pts

        4 goals 18 pts
        15 goals 25 pts
        21 goals 41 pts ( career high) lol

        • Baalzamon

          Simmonds got absolutely slaughtered at even strength this season. For reference, Ferland had 35 points at evens, while Simmonds had just 29. He used to be great in all situations, but he’s quickly becoming a powerplay specialist.

    • rusty_shakleforde

      I just hope Brower doesn’t play. I like the idea of Ryan, but my god. I just can’t imagine a line of Ryan and Brower. Ryan + youth, yes. But Ryan plus the Brow? :/

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Pretty sad situation when you have to go out and sign 30 plus year old muckers. Why not give the guys who have paid there dues in Stockton, guys you drafted! BT seems to like old reliable guys, maybe GG was told to play Bartkowski and Brouwer. Other teams bring up there young guys.
    I can see the shape this team is taking, same concept, just different names.

  • everton fc

    Where would Grabner play?

    He’s not a first line right wing. He has a lot of goals some seasons, but few assists – that always concerns me, especially when guys are in juniors (different conversation).

    I don’t see a place for a player like Grabner, here. Like Vanek, Grabner floats from team to team, every couple of years, since he left the Islanders.

  • RKD

    He scored 27 goals the last 2 season and average 38 points. He’s a guy who’s either going to get you 40 points or 20 points. He hasn’t played in the West in 10 years so basically no physicality. He’s 30 years old. Is he really going to put up 27 here or half of that and show up half the time?

  • Mitchell

    He’s kind of one dimensional, and that’s speed. When players get older they usually lose a step or two, and if that happens it’s likely you can say goodbye to both is offensive and defensive abilities. I would be okay with this if it’s short term (2 yrs max), and if the cap hit was low 2- 2.5 million. Though I’m thinking he’ll be offered something better elsewhere.

  • Just.Visiting

    No thank you. Other than possible Ryan for a 4C role if he’s available for a 2 year term and a reasonable price, my preference would be for BT to avoid the temptation and lock away his phone.

  • Just.Visiting

    No thank you. Other than possibly Ryan for a 4C role if he’s available for a 2 year term and a reasonable price, my preference would be for BT to avoid the temptation and lock away his phone.