Islanders Sign Kulemin, Grabovski : Where Do They Fit In The Lineup?

Posted on Jul 3 2014 - 8:24am by Peter McEntee

A day after the Islanders failed to make a major impact on the opening day of free agency, the team made a pretty big splash just a few hours ago. The Islanders went out and signed Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to 4 year contracts worth 20 million and 16.75 million dollars, respectively. The two forwards have been teammates before, as they played with the Toronto Maple Leafs together for 5 years.

Adding Grabovski, a center by trade, really saturates the Islanders at that position. The team now has 5 legitimate centers (and that discounts Ryan Strome,who is a natural center, but saw minimal time at that position last season).

That does pose a bit of a luxury problem, but it makes sense for Grabovski to be playing center on this team. The Islanders struggled mightily in face-offs last season, and Grabovski could help tackle that problem. He won 51.1% of all face-offs he took last season, better than any of the regular centers on the team. That face-off skill can go a long way, especially when a team needs help in the department.

As for where Grabovski fits in terms of being a center, it’s a toss-up between the 2nd and 3rd line. His point production would be enticing on the second line with more skilled players, but after the season Frans Nielsen just had, it’s tough to simply give Grabovski the spot.

Garth Snow has said that the Islanders like the idea of both Nielsen and Grabovski seeing 2nd line time. A tweet was sent from Arthur Staple, paraphrasing Garth’s feeling on the placement of Grabovski.


Ultimately, it looks like Mikhail will be seeing both 2nd and 3rd line time at center, and hopefully a decision will be made as to where he’ll be spending most of the time at some point during the regular season.

Kulemin, like his former teammate, is a bit of a toss-up here as well. He is a left winger, and the Islanders have been looking for a bona-fide player at that spot for some time now. After failing to sign Thomas Vanek, it would make sense to give Kulemin some time up top with the likes of John Tavares and Kyle Okposo and see what he’s capable of.

However, Nikolai Kulemin has developed chemistry with Mikhail Grabovski during their time in Toronto. The two played fairly well with each other, and produced nicely with the Maple Leafs. Pairing Kulemin and Grabovski to start the season would also make sense, which again creates a mini conflict.

With Kulemin, it comes down to wherever he’ll produce more. Whether  it’ll be on the top line with one of the best hockey players in the world, or with a man he’s played well with for a long time is to be determined.

These two signings solidify an Islanders offense that now could even afford to shed a player or two. The idea of trading for a defenseman makes a lot of sense, which is only more reason to feel a bit better about this upcoming season.

-Peter (@PJMcEntee)

Peter McEntee

Peter McEntee

Peter is an aspiring sports journalist who loves the game of hockey. He fell in love with the Islanders and the NHL at age 11, and hasn't looked back since. He hopes to be a writer for the team in his adulthood, and loves to talk about the game.
Peter McEntee


Aspiring sports journalist. Writer for @IslesInsight, a @USAToday affiliate. Big Mets and Giants fan. Just enjoyin it
@MichaelWillhoft you wanna dance (see what I did there)? - 10 hours ago
Peter McEntee

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  • wannabe D&C podcast intern

    What do you think of a trade for Dustin byufglien (and possibly Kane included but for now let’s just say byufglien in this deal)? I’m thinking bailey, Jesse graham, and some picks ( throw a second prospect or two in there like persson or ness if the deal includes Kane). Would anyone else make that deal?

    • Peter McEntee

      I’d like to see them both w/ the team, but cost may be higher. I think one of Nielsen/Grabner would replace Bailey, based on his performance. Although, I’d much rather it be Josh!!

      • wannabe D&C podcast intern

        I definitely think that we need at least one more top 4 d man before we can be satisfied with the lineup, and seeing how the jets are eager to shake things up having fallen short of the playoffs two years in a row, byufglien is in my opinion the best option. In all honesty I see acquiring byufglien above Kane since we have guys ready to fill the hole on the left wing with JT like Nelson or if we are lucky dal colle and whoever we choose to trade can be replaced by our new signings. It’s almost like Garth has intentionally set things up to be able to make a trade. Coincidence?

        • Peter McEntee

          I want Kane for the sole purpose of having a “TKO” line. Haha