According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, there has been some speculation the 21-year-old center is considering signing a deal in the KHL. Grigorenko is set for restricted free agency and McKenzie reports the Sabres were hoping to get 2012’s 12th overall pick signed to a two-way deal and have him fight for a roster spot next season, but Grigorenko may not be interested in competing for a spot in the lineup and venture instead to the KHL where there would likely be the promise of more money and a guaranteed roster spot.
Over the past three seasons, Grigorenko has suited up for just 68 NHL games, scoring six goals and 14 points. He has also spent 52 games in the AHL, where he notched 14 goals and 40 points. This past season, in the 25 games Grigorenko suited up for in Buffalo, he averaged more than 15 minutes of ice time, but he was back and forth between the AHL and NHL five times this past season.
In this year’s THN Future Watch issue, Grigorenko actually jumped up the rankings from 42nd to 38th, but he’s not the Sabres top ranked center prospect and he certainly won’t be once Eichel is selected at the upcoming draft. This season, Grigorenko ranked second on the Sabres’ prospect list behind the 2014 2nd overall pick Sam Reinhart. Reinhart, like Grigorenko did in 2012, got his chance to jump straight into the NHL, but was returned back to the WHL’s Kootenay Ice after registered one assist in nine games with Buffalo.
There has yet to be word about which KHL club is offering Grigorenko a contract, but he did play his Russian junior hockey with CSKA Moscow and there could be an obvious fit for him there. TASS, a Russian news outlet, spoke with Grigorenko’s agent, Valeria Gushina, who said it’s possible for there to be a fit in Moscow but that he and Grigorenko are still in talks with the Sabres.
“I think (negotiations and a contract) will be completed towards the end of the month,” Gushina told TASS.
Of course, that could mean with either club, but that means an answer as to where Grigorenko plays next season will likely come within the next two weeks.
At 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds, Grigorenko has the type of frame that could make him a dominating center in the league and it would certainly put a hole in the Sabres’ incredible prospect pool that will require filling. He’s one of the many pieces that made some believe the Sabres have a bright future on the horizon, so losing him to the KHL is certainly not something Buffalo GM Tim Murray wants to see happen. Murray told WGR 550 earlier this month that the team will, at the very least, tender a qualifying offer to Grigorenko. The rest will be up to him.