Grabovski meets up with Capitals; visa issue remains

Saturday, 09.14.2013 / 3:31 PM
Brian Compton  - Deputy Managing Editor

BELLEVILLE, Ontario -- Nearly a week into training camp, Mikhail Grabovski finally had an opportunity to meet his new teammates Saturday morning.

Grabovski, who signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Washington Capitals on Aug. 23, has been stuck in Toronto because of visa issues that have delayed his entrance into the United States. Saturday he was able to meet and work with the Capitals, who will play the Winnipeg Jets in the Kraft Hockeyville game at Yardmen Arena (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHL Network-U.S.).

"I'm very excited," said Grabovski, who said it took him roughly 90 minutes to drive from his Toronto home to Belleville. "I know they're making me a visa, so everything is going to be fine. I'm just excited to see the guys today and I'm very happy to be here."

Once his visa issues are resolved, the 29-year-old center is expected to play on the Capitals' second line, perhaps with Martin Erat and Troy Brouwer. Grabovski had nine goals and seven assists in 48 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. He had two assists in Toronto's seven-game loss to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

Grabovski had career highs in goals (29), assists (29) and points (58) with the Maple Leafs in 2010-11.

"Finally," Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin said of Grabovski. "I don't know when he's going to be in Washington, but it's nice to see him drive probably like two hours, two-and-a-half hours to see the boys."

Because of the visa issues, Grabovski, who has a meeting with the United States consulate Monday, can't fly back with his teammates to Washington after the game. He will not be in the lineup Saturday night.

"The season's starting and you want to feel a part of it," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "So at least he gets to come in and hang out for a couple of hours. Just to get him to come up here and meet the guys was probably the best part of it.

"We're playing eight [preseason] games, so as long as it gets done in the next few days, he'll still get five games in, which is kind of what the plan was for everybody pretty much."

The visa issues have prevented Grabovski from getting acclimated to his new surroundings and creating chemistry with potential linemates, but he said he's confident he'll be able to fit in once he arrives in Washington.

"It's not my first time I play for different team," said Grabovski, who appeared in 27 games for the Montreal Canadiens from 2006-08 after being selected in the fifth round (No. 150) at the 2004 NHL Draft. "But all this new people and new characters, it's a good experience for me. I'm always looking forward and enjoy this moment. The time of the life and you just have a good experience."

Oates brushed off any questions of frustration not having Grabovski in training camp, but he said he understands his new center is eager to get going with teammates and life in a different city. The Maple Leafs bought out the final four years of Grabovski's contract in early July, making him an unrestricted free agent.

"New scenery, you want to get off to a great start," Oates said. "A visa issue kind of derails you. Obviously, I'm sure he's very frustrated with that and you've got to feel for him."

Grabovski said, "Right now, I feel great. I feel like I'm ready for next Monday."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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