This was an interesting point that James Mirtle of The Athletic brought up Thursday night following the Rangers 5-2 win over the Maple Leafs; Toronto had shopped Michael Grabner last winter but was unable to find adequate return.
Of course, now you look at this season and here’s Grabner ripping it up in New York in the first year of a two-year, $3.3 million deal he signed with the Rangers this past July. He scored twice on Thursday night to up his season total to 21, which is tied for fourth in the NHL with Evgeni Malkin, Patrik Laine, Cam Atkinson, and Alex Ovechkin. His 1.85 goals per 60 minutes (per puckalytics) is the highest of the five, trailing on Sidney Crosby (1.88) among players that have played 500 minutes. He’s leads the league with 20 even-strength goals, his plus-23 rating tops on the Rangers and tied for fifth in the NHL.
In three seasons prior to Grabner signing with the Rangers, he’d scored just 29 goals, including nine in 80 games last season with Toronto, which might explain why there was such little interest for him this time last season. He had scored 20 goals twice before, including 34 in 2010-11 with the Islanders. But that had been long ago and far away (OK, 30 miles for the Rangers but plenty of traffic in between).
It’s also worth noting that he’s eluding goaltenders at a 21.6 percent rate, which is tied with Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell for fifth-highest in the NHL. When he scored 34 back in 2010-11, he connected at a 14.9 percent clip, 67 points below his current batting average.
But regardless, Grabner’s play to date has played a major role in the Rangers current standing, with 59 points and well in control of the first Wildcard spot. New York leads the league with 163 goals and is fourth with a plus-38 goal differential.
A number of other factors have had to do with that rise (emergence of Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, play of Antti Raanta behind Henrik Lundqvist, etc.), Grabner’s contribution to the Blueshirts so far has played a major role in its success.