Buffalo GM challenges Grigorenko to prove himself

Mikhail Grigorenko has been a difficult player to manage in his three seasons with the Sabres. After Grigorenko was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, the young Russian failed to live up to any elite expectations. 

Grigorenko has just 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in three professional seasons and has yet to become a mainstay in the NHL. Former Sabres coach Ted Nolan called Grigorenko's play "lackadaisical" after another failed NHL opportunity in March, and the Sabres noted throughout the season that Grigorenko had the skills to succeed but failed to make the most of those skills.

Grigorenko is now a restricted free agent, and according to Buffalo Hockey Beat, the Sabres are willing to offer Grigorenko a two-way deal which would enable the team to keep him in the minors for extended amounts of time. But Buffalo Hockey Beat said Grigorenko is not pleased with the offer and wants a one-way deal to ensure NHL playing time. 

General manager Tim Murray told reporters at a news conference Thursday that he has heard about Grigorenko's dissatisfaction but needs to see more from the young prospect before he would be willing to offer Grigorenko a better contract. 

"They tell me he’s ready to play," Murray told reporters at the press conference. "I don’t know why they’d be afraid of a two-way contract. I’m baffled, actually."

This past season was the most productive year Grigorenko had in the NHL, but he still posted just six points (three goals, three assists) in 25 games for a team which had plenty of openings in the lineup due to its bottom-rung status in the league. Meanwhile, the Sabres have three young centers in Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Sam Reinhart heading into next season. Should the Sabres pick Jack Eichel with the second overall pick in this year's draft, they could have four centers for next season and not much room for an underachieving Grigorenko. 

"If he is what he thinks he is, he’s in the NHL, in my opinion, just not in Buffalo,” Murray told the media. "We’re not arguing by any means. It just a difference of opinion on a qualifying offer that has an AHL component to it versus a one-way deal."

(h/t Buffalo Hockey Beat)

Photo credit: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images