The Sabres weren't expected to find a spot for the young Russian after benching him 10 times this season and loaning him out for a month to play in the IIHF World Junior Championship. He has only two goals and an assist in 18 games this season, and coach Ted Nolan said he needs more time to improve before becoming a full-time NHL player:
"We’re not looking at what he can do for us now. We’re looking at what he can do for us down the road and when he develops … Development is crucial."
But Grigorenko wasn't having that. He said last week he felt he was ready for the NHL, and he issued a statement Saturday saying he refused to return to juniors. From the sound of the statement, he might not lace his skates up anywhere for some time:
"I just want to apologized (sic) for the situation going on right now. We just need to find a place where I can develop and be the best hockey player I can be … Now I would just ask all of you guys to respect me and the time I'm taking to think about my career. It might be hard to understand, but it is even harder for a teenager."
Grigorenko, Buffalo's No. 1 draft choice in 2012, has struggled greatly in the NHL. The Sabres kept him on the NHL roster to begin the strike-shortened 2013 season but sent him back to juniors partway through that season; he scored a goal and four assists over 25 games that year. He again earned a roster spot to start this season, but his struggles led to fourth-line playing time. His age and remaining junior eligibility prohibit him from playing in the AHL, so he was sent to the junior tournament to get a chance to play; he scored five goals and three assists in seven games for Russia.
He is using up the second year of his three-year entry contract, which the Sabres activated by keeping him in the NHL 10 games last season. But the money and need to re-sign him next season aren't a concern to Nolan:
"He was a little bit upset, I imagine, but this is non-negotiable. It's one of those things that has to be done."
Buffalo Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan broke the news after the team's practice Saturday morning at Riverside Ice Arena that the organization has loaned rookie center Mikhail Grigorenko back to the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Nolan said he was part of the discussions along with president of hockey operations Pat LaFontaine and new general manager Tim Murray. He also said they believe the move is the best thing for Grigorenko’s long-term success.
“We’re not looking at what he can do for us now. We’re looking at what he can do for us down the road and when he develops. He’s only 19,” Nolan said. “…Development is crucial. In talking with Tim and Pat, that’s what we really want to do, is develop.”
After speaking with Grigorenko, Nolan hopes the young center will see playing in the QMJHL as a good opportunity.
“He was a little bit upset, I would imagine, but this is non-negotiable,” Nolan said. “It’s one of those things that has to be done.”
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