Coyotes Banking on Grabner's Speed, Shotby Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content
GLENDALE -- The Coyotes added scoring winger Michael Grabner to their offensive attack on Sunday by signing the unrestricted free agent to a three-year contract.
"He's a proven even-strength scorer," General Manager John Chayka said. "Those are difficult to find. He's a top-10 scorer in the last two years in terms of even-strength goals. The game is trending toward speed and skill and he's got it in spades, and he's an elite penalty killer. He's got these special attributes that are typically very difficult to find in free agency, and if you ever do find them you end up paying an arm and a leg. I thought it was a good value play. We got someone who's motivated, who's in great shape and had an interest in playing for the Coyotes. We wanted to address our wing position and add some goal scoring, and we felt we addressed that with Michael."
Grabner, 30, has notched 158 NHL goals, including 54 the past two seasons for the New York Rangers (52) and New Jersey Devils (two). He said he's looking forward to playing for an up-and-coming team in Arizona.
"I knew they were really interested and obviously you want to play somewhere where a team wants you to come in and help them win, so I'm glad I ended up there," Grabner said. "They have a great young team. Hopefully I can go in there and help them out."
Video: Grabner on his three-year deal with the Coyotes
Grabner, whom Vancouver drafted 14th overall in 2006, is best known for his speed. As a rookie, he won the Fastest Skater event at the NHL All-Star Skills Competition in 2011.
"Everyone knows my game is based on speed and skating," Grabner said. "I think they have a lot of good playmakers on the roster so I'm just going to try to use my speed and open up some space for them, I think I will fit in pretty good with the style that they want to play."
Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson was pleased to learn the Austrian speedster joined the Coyotes.
"It wasn't fun to play against him because he just blew by you a couple times every single time you played him," Ekman-Larsson said. "He's going to bring speed. That's the way we want to play so I think he's going to help us a lot."
Like Ekman-Larsson, Grabner thinks he'll be a good fit for Head Coach Rick Tocchet's up-tempo system.
"They have some quick guys up front and some pretty good d-men there with Ekman-Larsson," Grabner said. "They were always tough games for me (vs. Arizona). I'm excited to get to know these guys a little closer."
Grabner produced 27 goals in 80 games last season. That total would have led the Coyotes by four; rookie Clayton Keller scored a team-high 23 goals.
Chayka said the Coyotes, however, won't pressure Grabner to lead them in goal production.
"We view it as a group approach," Chayka said. "We're not signing him to be the savior here. He's coming in to be a part of our group. We think we've got a number of good, young players that can score a lot of goals this season, but to get a guy that's got veteran experience, that's been there before, and, like I said, is in great shape, it kind of checked all the boxes for us."
Grabner will be reunited with former New York Rangers teammates Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta, who were traded to the Coyotes last June.
"It's always nice when you're coming to a new team and know a couple of faces," Grabner said. "With (Stepan) and (Raanta) being down there, it's nice to get them to help me out a little bit. It definitely makes it easier trying to get into a new organization because you never know what to expect being the new guy."
Stepan is excited to be reunited with Grabner.
"First off, he is a veteran guy that has a lot of experience in the NHL and brings a lot of speed and goal scoring," Stepan said. "He anticipates where the puck is going to be so well. He is always in the right areas. He will be very good in our system. But the biggest thing is he will help our PK so much. He's one of the best PK guys I have ever played with."