Today the Islanders made two more exciting signings. Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin are two former Leafs who were often considered by Leafs fans to have been wrongly deployed by Randy Carlyle, to the team's great detriment. Let's take a look at them.
First things first: Nikolai Kulemin is a "former 30 goal scorer" in the say way Brad Boyes is a "former 40 goal scorer" - both guys capitalized on fluky as hell seasons that no Isles fan should expect to happen again. For Kulemin, this was the combination of a lot of power play time and good linemates (Grabovski and Clarke MacArthur) increasing his total shots to a career high, and well, 17.3% shooting - well higher than his career average of 11.9%.
It's true that, under Randy Carlyle, Kulemin has been forced into often brutal defensive minutes the last few years, but even considering his career before that happened, it's most likely he's going to wind up with somewhere around 15 goals and 20 assists if he gets even or slightly offensive zone starts (and winds up with Grabovski again). These are at least good 3rd line #s, if he can put them up after two years of d zone hell.
That said, aside from the scoring, Kulemin doesn't provide much. Kulemin's corsi relative to Toronto, a terrible possesion team, has been negative the last two years, EVEN AFTER ADJUSTING FOR ZONE STARTS (-3.32% in 12-13, -0.84% in 13-14). He's clearly been riding Grabovski in driving play forward (more on that in a second), so you shouldn't expect him to help drive play on any particular line - in fact, he's probably slightly negative. Now perhaps he individually is greater affected by the defensive play than most players and will be better with better zone starts, but I wouldn't expect much at that department.
All in all, you wind up with a very similar player to Cory Conacher - a guy who doesn't drive play but can put up a decent # of points for a borderline 2nd liner. He's probably a better scorer than Conacher but worse possession driver, and you have a lot more certainty with Kulemin than Conacher. Still he's not nearly worth what he's being paid.
Which is okay. Because we're overpaying him as part of the price of getting:
Unlike Kulemin, Grabovski bring with him the possibility of being a pretty good 2nd line borderline first liner in terms of points - having hit 48 points or more 3 times in his career, and having been on pace to do so in both 09-10 and 13-14 had he played full seasons. Given reasonable minutes, around 20 goals or maybe more is a reasonable expectation from Grabovski.
One concern however is that Grabovski's shot rate was WAY down this year. In really defensive minutes in Toronto in 12-13, he took nearly 14 shot attempts per 60 at 5v5, this year in easier more cushy minutes, he took only 8.5 per 60. That's a HUGE drop. If that's real, he'll struggle to hit 20 goals again and maybe even struggle to reach 50 points, which would hurt for what were paying him.
Of course, unlike Kulemin, we're paying Grabovski for more than just points - Grabbo is a STRONG possession driver. When you adjust for zone starts, Grabovski has been positive for three years running (+6.45% in 11-12, +1.07% in 12-13, +3.96% in 13-14) in relative corsi, with the #s in 11-12 and 13-14 being really good. The puck goes the right damn way with Grabbo on a line, which is something the Isles really could use in a 3rd center.
Hopefully the shot rate will pickup with a second good winger (Grabner? Nelson? Strome? Lee?) and then this can be a real impact signing.