Mikhail Grigorenko

GM: Blue Jackets stay in the present but plan for the future

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Amid uncertainty about whether the 2019-20 season will continue, the Columbus Blue Jackets are looking ahead to next season.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced the signing Monday of Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year contract for next season. A person with knowledge of the contract told The Associated Press it’s worth $1.2 million, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team does not release contract terms.

The deal was later rejected by the NHL, and the Blue Jackets tweeted that it was due to a ‘misunderstanding with regard to the filing window, and that the contract will be resubmitted July 1.

Last week the team locked up goalie Joonas Korpisalo for two more years with a contract worth a reported $5.6 million.

”I think it’s just business as usual for us,” Kekalainen insisted during a Monday conference call with reporters, while noting that the team is embroiled in discussions internally and with the NHL about if and how the current season will resume after the coronavirus threat wanes.

”We’ve talked to Grigorenko for two years, and now his contract’s up and he’s done playing for the year,” Kekalainen said. ”It’s business as usual, we’re just not meeting at the office. We’re doing it on FaceTime or Zoom on our computers, talking to each other by phone.”

The 25-year-old Grigorenko had 22 goals and 42 assists in 217 career NHL games with the Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres from 2012-17. He was the 12th overall pick by Buffalo in 2012 and can play all three forward positions.

The native of Khabarovsk, Russia, has spent the past three seasons with CSKA in the Kontinental Hockey League, with 46 goals and 70 assists in 147 games from 2017-20. Kekalainen said he’s noted improvement in the player since he was in the NHL.

The two-year contract for Korpisalo will give the 25-year-old a chance to establish himself as the team’s starter. Rookie backup Elvis Merzlikins also proved he is worthy of a starting job.

The team likely will try to re-sign Merzlikins, and conventional wisdom is that one of them will eventually be trade bait as Columbus seeks more offensive help for next year.

Korpisalo said he wants to be the guy.

”I’ve been working for many years, and I’ve got a good chance to make it,” he said Monday. ”I think I’ve said I played OK. I always knew I had it in myself, and now signing a two-year contract, I’m really honored and it’s really a place I want to be. Just happy to stay in Columbus and try to make the best of myself.”

Korpisalo, who is at home in Finland, said he reckons it will take ”a couple weeks” just to get players back together and start training again if the league comes up with a plan to finish the season.

Ideas floated include trying to finish the regular season at neutral sites with no fans or going right into an expanded playoff scenario. If the playoffs were to begin with 16 teams, the Blue Jackets would be edged out by percentage points, so naturally Kekalainen is advocating for an expanded playoff field.

”I don’t think there’s a fair way to cut it to 16 teams right away,” he said.

”We have some ideas,” he said. ”And obviously we want to be part of it. We were right there when play halted and paused.”

If the season continues, most players who were injured would be ready to go, Kekalianen said, including star defenseman Seth Jones and forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexandre Texier.

NHL voids Grigorenko deal with Blue Jackets due to CBA rules

Mikhail Grigorenko’s three-year stint in the KHL is over.

The 25-year-old signed a one-year, $1.2 million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday, as announced by his agent,  Dan Milstein.

Grigorenko spent the last three seasons with CSKA Moscow, where he scored 19 goals and 41 points in 47 games during the 2019-20 campaign.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Russian forward left serious money on the table to come back to North America. Friedman mentioned that one of the KHL offers on the table was for double the amount of money he signed for in Columbus.

Grigorenko was drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2012 NHL Draft. He last played in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche during the 2016-17 season. He posted 10 goals and 23 points in 75 games during his most recent season in North America. Grigorenko played 217 NHL games with Buffalo and Colorado, and he picked up 22 goals and 64 points in 217 games.

Grigorenko’s combination of size and skill has led to him getting multiple chances at the NHL level. He’s listed at 6-foot-2, 213 pounds and he’s been an offensive player at every level.

As TSN’s Bob McKenzie mentions in the video at the top of the page, Grigorenko was once considered the number two prospect in the 2012 draft class. That’s how skilled he was. Can he figure it all out now that he’s older? Maybe. Either way, this is a low-risk signing for the Jackets.

He and Columbus defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov has played together internationally for Russia. Having Gavrikov around might help Grigorenko stay focused on the ice.

UPDATE: Not so fast? The NHL rejected the contract. TSN’s Bob McKenzie has more on what may be a temporary holdup … or not?

The Blue Jackets put out a press release that backs up McKenzie’s assertions:

Earlier today, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced the signing of forward Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year contract for the 2020-21 National Hockey League season. The contract subsequently has been rejected by NHL Central Registry due to a misunderstanding with regards to the filing window. We have been in contact with the league and Dan Milstein, Grigorenko’s agent, and the contract will be filed on July 1.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Avs grab Grigorenko for one year

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The Colorado Avalanche signed Mikhail Grigorenko – a significant part of the Ryan O’Reilly trade – to a one-year contract on Thursday.

This isn’t official, but word from Bleacher Report’s Adrian Dater is that the contract is one-way and worth $675K.

As you may remember, the Buffalo Sabres weren’t pleased that Grigorenko insisted on a one-way deal, so that factor is pretty significant. The 21-year-old was part of a trade package that also sent the 31st pick of the 2015 NHL Draft, Nikita Zadorov and J.T. Compher from Buffalo to Colorado.

The 12th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft endured a bumpy start with the Buffalo organization, as he struggled at the NHL level with the Sabres but put up often-impressive numbers in the QMJHL and AHL over the years.

Grigorenko probably needed a fresh start, and Colorado could very well be a nice fit for the Russian. His development will likely play a key role in how that trade his viewed a few years down the line.

Sabres prospect Compher returning to Michigan

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J.T. Compher, taken 35th overall by Buffalo at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, has decided to return to the University of Michigan for his junior season, per WGR 550 radio.

Compher, 21, broke onto the collegiate scene as a rookie, capturing Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2013-14, along with an All-Big Ten Second Team spot. He followed that up with a relatively solid sophomore effort — 12 goals and 24 points in 34 games — while representing the U.S. at the 2015 World Juniors.

It’s not all that surprising that Compher’s going back to school. Buffalo’s full-scale rebuild is in its infancy, with little appetite to rush prospects along in their development — something the club experienced with Mikhail Grigorenko, the 12th overall pick in 2012.

If Ryan O’Reilly is traded, where will he end up?

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Lots of talk about Ryan O’Reilly on the series of tubes today. The consensus seems to be that the 23-year-old Colorado center will be wearing a different uniform next season, or even by the end of the current season.

It’s not a simple situation, though. O’Reilly is signed through 2015-16, after which he can become an unrestricted free agent. The difficult part is that he can’t sign an extension until July 1, so if he were to be traded by the March 2 deadline, the acquiring team would want to have some sort of assurance that they could keep him long-term. So maybe this is a deal best left for the offseason.

On the other hand, O’Reilly’s value could theoretically be higher at the deadline if he goes to a playoff team.

Anyway, we came up with a list of five possible destinations. Feel free to list yours below.

Toronto Maple Leafs. Their biggest issue is at center, and has been for a while. Having said that, I’m just not sure what they could offer the Avs in return. If it’s a defenseman Colorado wants, it’s hard to imagine the Leafs giving up a youngster like Morgan Rielly. They’d probably be willing to trade Jake Gardiner, but given his struggles this season, would that be enough? Cody Franson is a possibility we suppose, but he’s also a pending unrestricted free agent.

Buffalo Sabres. According to the rumor mill, the trade could be for d-man Tyler Myers. But here’s my question — isn’t the Sabres’ future already looking pretty good down the middle? Zemgus Girgensons. Sam Reinhart. Mikhail Grigorenko. And quite possibly one of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Arizona Coyotes. We mentioned this possibility in our post about Keith Yandle. I imagine a lot would depend on whether O’Reilly would have interest in signing long-term with the Coyotes. If you were him, would you? Again, as of today, he can go anywhere he pleases come the summer of 2016. That’s a lot of leverage, especially for a 23-year-old.

Montreal Canadiens. Their top two centers are currently Tomas Plekanec and David Desharnais. Not terrible, but not great either. A future one-two of Alex Galchenyuk and O’Reilly would be formidable, though. Except like with the Leafs, I’m struggling to think what the Habs could offer in return. Would they give up Alexei Emelin? That could hurt them, given Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar won’t be around much longer.

Washington Capitals. This is pure speculation on my part. It may not make sense whatsoever, given the Caps already have two young centers, Andre Burakovsky and Evgeny Kuznetsov, to go with top center Nicklas Backstrom. But O’Reilly would definitely help them this season. Remember, they’ve lacked a good No. 2 center for a while now.

Related: Welcome Ryan O’Reilly to the trade rumor mill