We've seen this day coming for a while, whether it was because of decreased ice time, an injury-wrecked season, an expiring contract, an overstuffed depth chart, active trade pursuits or the burden of having two guys with very similar sounding nicknames on the same team. Still, it stings seeing a useful, versatile and, above all else, exciting player being moved.
Grabner was one of Garth Snow's waiver wire magic acts. Snow plucked Grabner from the Panthers (who has acquired him from Vancouver) during training camp in 2010 and after a month or so, watched him go on a 34-goal tear and end up a Calder Trophy finalist. His sense of humor, Twitter persona, Ludicrous Speed skating and endless series of breakaways endeared him to fans even more.
The returns have diminished every season for Grabner, but it hasn't happened in a vacuum: his ice time, linemates, role and health have fluctuated wildly throughout the seasons. The nadir was last season, in which he had two sports hernia surgeries and found himself in the pressbox even when healthy.
As the Islanders pluck more fruit from the draft picks they've amassed, Grabner's roster spot became less of a given. Still, on a radio interview yesterday, Jack Capuano mentioned Grabner as one of the players he'd like to use in a 3-on-3 overtime situation. So maybe the extent of "CAPPY HATES GRABS!" was a little over exaggerated.
We'll dive into the return a little later (the fine folks at Pension Plan Puppets have just concluded their Top 25 Under 25 list featuring most or all of these guys). But for now, we'll lament the loss of one of the most electric players the Islanders have had in some time. This was my favorite Grabner moment: a wild 7-6 overtime win over Buffalo in which Grabner had a hat trick and the game-winner, all scored in ridiculous fashion.
We'll miss you, Gremlin.