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Islanders trade Michael Grabner to Maple Leafs

New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner looks

New York Islanders right wing Michael Grabner looks on during Group B training camp at Nassau Coliseum on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On a day all the Islanders players arrived for training camp, one longtime Islander departed.

The Isles sent Michael Grabner to the Leafs for five minor-leaguers Thursday, shifting around their forward group the same day that the players came to Nassau Coliseum for one last day of testing and interviews in their former home rink.

Grabner, 27, came to the Islanders on the waiver wire from the Panthers just before the 2010-11 season and immediately became a fan favorite with his speed and scoring touch. His 34 goals that season led all NHL rookies and earned Grabner a five-year, $15-million deal.

But injuries slowed Grabner the past two seasons and now, set to earn $5 million in the final year of that deal, Garth Snow decided to go cheaper for depth forwards. Shortly after he dealt Grabner, Snow signed wing Steve Bernier to a one-year, $750,000 deal.

"Michael played well for us," Snow told Newsday. "He had some bad luck with injuries but he's a good player and a good person, real popular with his teammates."

Brock Nelson's signing late Wednesday may have played a part as well. Nelson's three-year, $7.5-million deal just 10 hours before a deadline to sign or miss the season made Grabner expendable. Nelson's return means the Islanders have all 12 regular forwards back from last season.

And Bernier, 30, provides the versatility that Snow liked. Bernier already was in Isles camp on a tryout but now he's guaranteed a contract and likely a spot on the roster. Bernier spent the last four seasons with the Devils, having scored a career-high 16 goals last season.

"He's an honest player, real tough to play against," Snow said of Bernier. "We really like the size he brings, he's able to get to the net, create scoring chances."

Nelson's whirlwind day Thursday had him getting on an early flight from Minnesota to get to the Coliseum in time to go through his physical exam and express some relief at getting signed.

"There was a little tossing and turning last night," Nelson said. "That was more excitement about getting here and getting started. I spent the summer working out with Kyle [Okposo], a lot of other NHLers. Now the contract's done, that's behind me and it's about taking the next step here."

None of the five young players acquired from the Leafs figures in this season's roster plans. Forward Taylor Beck, 24, is the only one with NHL experience, having played 62 games for the Predators last season.

Also acquired was center Carter Verhaeghe, 20, whom Snow likened to current Isles center Casey Cizikas; defensemen Matt Finn, 21, and Tom Nilsson, 22, and goaltender Christopher Gibson, 22.

The Islanders hit the ice Friday to start three days of workouts before their first preseason game on Monday against the Flyers at Barclays Center.

How did the players feel about reporting to Nassau Coliseum on Thursday?

"This actually feels normal, being here," Okposo said. "It'll be strange going to the other building [Barclays] for the first time."

New York Sports