Could we have given him 5.5 million pineapples instead?


Today, the Maple Leafs made Mikhail Grabovski their highest paid forward, at least until Phil Kessel is due up for his raise next season, with a five-year, $27.5 million contract extension.

It’s safe to say, with a $5.5 million annual salary taken in combination with the long term duration (five years), it cost the Leafs more than we expected to get their number one center under contract. It was rumoured Grabovski wanted Kessel money, which sounded ridiculous given Kessel signed his current deal coming off of a 36-goal season at age 22. Grabovski meanwhile is 28 and does not have a 30-goal season to his name yet, nor will he after this season, barring a scorching hot goal scoring streak to end his season (he sits at 20 goals). He has not broken the 60 point barrier yet in his career, and it’s unlikely that will happen this season either, though he would have had a shot if he didn’t miss five games to injury.

Let’s take a look at each team’s highest paid center after the jump.

TeamCenterSalaryCareer Production
AnaheimRyan Getzlaf5.35 million0.93PPG
BostonPatrice Bergeron5 million0.75PPG
BuffaloDerek Roy4 million0.79PPG
CalgaryOlli Jokinen3 million0.66PPG
CarolinaEric Staal8.25 million0.90PPG
ChicagoJonathan Toews6.3 million0.89PPG
ColoradoPaul Statsny6.6 million0.88PPG
ColumbusDerek Brassard3.2 million0.54PPG
DallasMike Riberio5 million0.76PPG
DetroitPavel Datsyuk6.7 million0.98PPG
EdmontonShawn Horcoff5.5 million0.58PPG
FloridaStephen Weiss3.1 million0.61PPG
Los AngelesAnze Kopitar6.8 million0.90PPG
MinnesotaMikko Koivu6.75 million0.74PPG
MontrealScott Gomez7.375 million0.76PPG
NashvilleDavid Legwand4.5 million0.59PPG
New JerseyZach Parise (originally a center)6 million (pending UFA)0.82PPG
New York IslandersJohn Tavares5.5 million (starting next)0.81PPG
New York RangersBrad Richards6.66 million0.91PPG
OttawaJason Spezza7 milllion1.018PPG
PhiladelphiaDaniel Briere6.5 million0.79PPG
PhoenixDaymond Langkow4.5 million0.62PPG
San JoseJoe Thornton7 million1 PPG
TorontoMikhail Grabovski5.5 million0.64PPG
VancouverHenrik Sedin6.1 million0.84PPG
WashingtonNicklas Backstrom6.7 million1.01PPG


  • Every single one of these players has at least one 60+ point season to their name except Derick Brassard, who makes only 3.2 million.
  • Production wise, it’s safe to say the Leafs are overpaying Mikhail Grabovski and by more than a little.
  • In many cases it appears teams got hometown discounts on their highest paid (and in most cases number one) centers, and the Leafs have not been able to gain that luxury with Grabovski.
  • Closest comparables in terms of salary are Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron, Shawn Horcoff, Mike Ribeiro, John Tavares, and Zach Parise. Bergeron broke 70 points multiple times before signing is current deal. Getzlaf, Ribeiro and Parise (one-year extension) had all broken 80 before theirs. Tavares posted 67 points in 79 games at age 20 before signing his current $5.5 million extension back in September. Obviously Grabovski is in none in these players’ leagues, and in terms of production, Grabovski’s contract is much closer to Horcoff’s in value for the money.

The Leafs can somewhat be excused for overpaying on Grabovski. He poses more value to the Leafs than whatever they could have got for him in a trade at the deadline. He is the Leafs’ best two way center and consistently drives possession in the right direction. He has shown he can be a heart and soul player with a dogged determination, willing to take the physical punishment necessary to make a play. It also seems Grabovski will be Carlyle’s go-to center in key matchups.

Perhaps the biggest reason of all the Leafs overpaid for Grabovski is that there probably won’t be a better option in unrestricted free agency this off season. Even if a guy like Parise hits the open market, the type of bidding war Burke would have to enter into, and the amount of cap circumvention (by his rules) he’ll likely have to perform, would make the Leafs an unlikely candidate to land him. As Grabovski was a pending UFA, to an extent this speaks to how whacked the open market has gotten recently, to the point where Ville Leino can make $4.5 million a season for the next six years. But Grabovski wasn’t a UFA yet, and it’s unfortunate the Leafs could not get Grabovski signed at a more reasonable price like most teams seem to be able to do when extending the contracts of their top center talent.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-13 Maple Leafs Annual magazines. You can contact him at [email protected]