Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin sign for four years with Islanders

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski are reunited. (Getty Images)
Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski are reunited. (Getty Images)

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The New York Islanders have shown a more aggressive approach to building for next season this summer and on Wednesday GM Garth Snow made his biggest statement yet.

After filling one massive need in net with Jaroslav Halak earlier this postseason, the Islanders got a bit of a two-for-one package in free agency, signing both Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to four-year deals.

All of a sudden, the Islanders are starting to look like a playoff team again. Get some additional help on defense and then we're really talking.

"It's like fishing. You put your line in the water and you hope for some nibbles," Snow said. "We got two big bites today."

It's a decent amount of money for both players but neither seems like an egregious overpay and in the process the Islanders just added some nice players into their top six. After watching other players they offered big deals to turn them down, you're OK if you have spend a little more to get players you want, such is life for teams like the Isles.

The end result is shaping up nicely, though. Down the middle now the Islanders are working with John Tavares, Grabovski and Frans Nielsen, which certainly ain't bad.

Kulemin and Grabovski go back to their days in Toronto together and clearly had interest in signing with the same team, something the Islanders were not only willing to make happen but could really use as well. It looks like a great fit for both sides of this deal.

Last season in Washington, Grabovski was limited by injuries and played just 58 games but finished with 13 goals and 22 assists. Not to mention he's a strong two-way player with positive possession metrics. Not everybody agrees (ahem, Maple Leafs) but at $5 million, he's at an OK price but should be worth it for the Isles, especially since they aren't in cap trouble.

Kulemin is another guy who found himself in doghouse a bit in Toronto so perhaps a fresh start will help him to rekindle his previous form. In 2010-11 he finished with 30 goals and 27 assists but his role diminished in Toronto and so did his ice time. Last season he finished with just nine goals and 11 assists. But with a bigger role and playing (likely) on Grabovski's wing, they'll be hopeful he has more in him. Given the price of the contract, obviously they believe he can.

This all represents a bit of a change for the Islanders franchise, spending some money in free agency and being so aggressive in trying to build up the team. You'll recall they also traded for Dan Boyle's rights and tried to sign him but couldn't reach a deal. Garth Snow is going for it and so far, looks to be doing a pretty good job.

Perhaps in one more year, this team will really be ready for brighter lights of Brooklyn.

 
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