First-round pick signs for 3 years Naslund helped 18-year-old winger's development
Jason Botchford, The Province Published: Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Michael Grabner's impressive training camp has helped him land his first pro deal.
Grabner and the Canucks have agreed to a three-year entry level contract that will pay him the maximum allowed, which is $850,000 US per year.
"I was pretty excited to get it done and it's left me with a really good feeling," said Grabner, the Canucks first-round (14th overall) 2006 draft pick. "I think it's a relief and it's one less thing I have to worry about this year."
The Canucks had a two-year window to get a deal done. Signing him early is an indicator of how high they are on his talent and his upside, although he likely remains a year away from having a legitimate shot at sticking with the team.
"I am not that surprised they signed him," Grabner's agent Jerome Buckley said.
"They know Michael's talent level. They've seen him play and they like him a lot. They had the two-year window but they knew they were going to sign him. When [Canucks GM Dave Nonis] and I spoke it just made sense to get the deal done fairly quickly."
Grabner, who turns 19 on Oct. 5, believes that the Canucks will soon send him back to the WHL's Spokane Chiefs. That's where he played last season, scoring 36 goals in 67 games.
"I think they'll send me back down next week because they think I need another year in junior," Grabner said.
"I'm a little bit surprised [I've lasted this long]. I'm trying my best out there. It's a good experience and it's going to help me get better for juniors. I hope I can bring a lot back [in terms of] leadership and just being a better player."
The Canucks acknowledged they were torn about drafting the Austrian-born Grabner in June. At their draft table there was some thought to the idea the team should pick a North American-born player.
Looking back at his camp, Grabner said he started slow but was able to steadily improve. His best game was in San Jose on Thursday, when he scored a goal and was the team's best forward during the second and third periods, according to coach Alain Vigneault.
"Markus Naslund really helped a lot when they were rooming together [at training camp in Vernon]," Buckley said. "He really helped him with the transition and that is always difficult. He made Michael feel welcome, which is always nice. [Naslund] went out of his way to do that for him."
Buckley said getting a deal done so quickly after the draft wasn't surprising.
"There's been a handful of guys drafted in the first round who have signed," Buckley said. Nice to have a first rounder signed- don't wanna go through the whole R.J scenario again. Can't remember a first round draft pick who's been a foward that I've been excited about for a long time.
Lets hope he has a great year with the Chiefs and makes the big team next year. With the new faster NHL, he'll be an exciting player to watch in a few years.