2018 NHL Winter Classic, New York Rangers, Michael Grabner
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Michael Grabner, a 30-year-old forward for the New York Rangers, has been nothing but great in the two years he has spent with the organization.

Michael Grabner, a speedy Austrian winger, led the Rangers in goals last season (27) and currently leads the team in goals this season (18). While his unusually high shooting percentage and his impeccable ability to score empty net goals have drawn skepticism from analysts and experts, Grabner has proven to be a very good goal scorer in the NHL.

It is important to note that Grabner, last season, got off to a similar start. He was among the league leaders in goals and was on pace to score well over 35 goals early in the season. While he fell short, 27 is nothing to sneeze at.

Grabner is notoriously streaky. He is known to go on remarkable stretches of scoring, followed only by baffling droughts in offense. Yet, these aforementioned stretches of dominant goal scoring carry the Rangers from victory to victory, all coming from an alleged “depth” player.

The interesting thing is that on top of his solid goal scoring ability, Grabner contributes other things to this Rangers team as well. Speed is the most notable of Grabner’s contributions, as nobody on the team can rival his skating ability. His skating opens up the ice for him as well as other players, allowing the third line to play a more fast-paced and lethal offensive game.

Additionally, Grabner’s skating ability allows him to effectively kill penalties. Grabner, being able to constantly bear down on players with his speed, allows the Rangers penalty kill to have a bit of punch, both offensively and defensively. He is a constant breakaway threat when on the ice.

Grabner’s speed and penalty killing ability, in turn, allows him to be a capable and effective player whether he is scoring goals or not scoring goals.

What I am trying to infer, through all of these observations and statistics, is that Grabner is a vital player to this Rangers team, and is often undervalued by fans and advanced statistics analysts who constantly critique his unusually high shooting percentage, fervently claiming “it must go down.”

Evidently, it does. But Grabner’s goal-scoring exceeds anyone on the Rangers at this point in time and last season.

This leads me to conclude the following: Grabner must be re-signed. I would even go as far to say that Grabner deserves up to $5 million annually over three years!

While that sounds outrageous for a depth player, think about it for a moment. If Grabner finishes this season, yet again, as the team leader in goals, why should he be paid any less than the players that are paid to score? Players such as Chris Kreider, Rick Nash, Mika ZIbanejad and others are being paid very decently. Why should someone who scores more often than them, while contributing to other facets of the game, be paid less?

Grabner has been wrongly deemed as the depth player that should only take in $2-to-3 million dollars a year because he is unreliable. Yet, he scores more efficiently than players getting $6-to-7 million annually on the free agent market!

After scoring his 18th goal of the season in the Winter Classic, Grabner is currently in the NHL’s top 10 in goal scoring. Only Nikita Kucherov (25), Alex Ovechkin (24), Anders Lee (24), John Tavares (21), Brock Boeser (21), William Karlsson (20) and Tyler Seguin (19) have more goals than Grabner.

All of these players, other than Karlsson, shoot more than Grabner by quite a bit.

Grabner is due to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He will be coming off a two-year contract in which he was paid $1.65 million dollars a year annually. He has more than earned his money.

Grabner, as a New York Ranger, has put up the following stat line in his two years as a New York Ranger:

115 GP, 45 goals, 16 assists, and a plus-36 Rating.

What Grabner brings to this team is very hard to replace without spending an exhorting amount of money. The Rangers should buy this statistical output low, and keep the speed and durability that Grabner brings to the lineup on a nightly basis.