Next season is going to be very important for the Leafs moving forward. It starts with how the team looks after the draft, free agency and potential trades.
The topic of this article largely rests on how well the Leafs are playing at the trade deadline—if they are in the race for a playoff spot, the likeliness of Grabovski being traded shrinks quite a bit. If not, he is all but gone.
Most Leaf fans will probably argue against this, and I understand why—Grabovski was one of the best Leafs this past season, and is likely to continue his upward trend next year.
It comes down to a number of factors.
First, Grabovski will be in line for a huge raise. He will likely command a salary in the $4-5 million range. With a top centre likely coming to Toronto this summer one way or another, tying up another $5 million in a second-line centre does not give Toronto much flexibility moving forward.
Secondly, that number two spot is Joe Colborne's in the future. Don't be surprised to see a top-six that looks like this in a year from now:
Who Would You Rather Keep?
Thirdly, Grabovski could fetch quite a strong return from a team looking at a deep playoff run, especially with his skill set coming in a bargain of $2.9 million. He would give a team like Washington another scoring threat, and would fit in with the culture of that team.
Lastly, Burke will have to decide between Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin—a restricted free agent that will look to fetch around $4-5 million per season as well. Kulemin's skill set is a lot more valuable—a two-way/power forward left winger that has top-line potential is untouchable.
If the Leafs are in a similar spot to the one they were in this season around the trade deadline, Grabovski is as good as gone.