Mikhail Grigorenko signed a one-year, one-way deal with the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, and it could be his final chance at making it in the NHL. Over the past three seasons, Grigorenko has bounced between the QMJHL, AHL and NHL and has struggled to find any consistency to his game in the big league.
In 2012, any trade between the Buffalo Sabres and Colorado Avalanche that involved Ryan O’Reilly could have centered on Mikahil Grigorenko. In 2015, the 21-year-old Russian winger was more of a throw in.
Nearly three weeks following the completion of a deal that saw Buffalo send Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, J.T. Compher and a 2015 second-round pick shipped to Colorado for O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn, it appears the Avalanche are prepared to give Grigorenko his shot at becoming a full-time NHLer. If he doesn’t make it happen this year, though, it might be his last.
The Avalanche announced Thursday they have re-signed Grigorenko to a one-year, one-way contract worth $675,000. He won’t be able to go back to the AHL without clearing waivers, but, at this point, it might be hard to find a team who would take a shot on Grigorenko, the 2012 12th overall selection.
As a restricted free agent this off-season, the Avalanche extended Grigorenko a qualifying offer, but the one-year, one-way deal means the intention is to play him full-time in the NHL and give him the opportunity to sink or swim.
Grigorenko has spent the past three seasons bouncing between the NHL, AHL and QMJHL, so there’s little wonder why he hasn’t been able to find any real consistency in his game. That said, if he can’t find some this season on a low-risk, potentially high-reward contract – the reward exists for Grigorenko, too – the rumors about a potential jump back to the KHL could come true next off-season.
For a winger, Grigorenko has just about everything a team could be looking for: he’s 6-foot-3, he’s 203 pounds and he can play at both ends of the ice. The issue, however, is that in the chances he has had to make an impact in the NHL, Grigorenko hasn’t capitalized.
His career began with making the Sabres out of training camp in the lockout-shortened season before being sent back to the QMJHL with little more than a month remaining in the 48-game NHL campaign. Once his season ended in the Quebec, he was brought back to Buffalo for a three-game spell. Just like that, his rookie campaign was done, and he had managed a mere one goal and five points in 25 outings.
The next season saw him start, again, in the NHL. The season began dreadfully and Grigorenko was held off of the score sheet for the first 11 games of the season before finally notching an assist before October ended. Two games later, he scored two goals in a losing effort, and four games after that he was a healthy scratch before being sent to the Russian junior team for the World Junior Championship. After the tournament ended, Grigorenko was again sent to the QMJHL before finishing his year with a 14-game, 4-assist stint in the AHL.
Of age to become a full-time AHL player, Grigorenko spent the majority of the 2014-15 campaign in Rochester, scoring 14 goals and 36 points in 43 games, which is a nice total for a 21-year-old in the league. But, once again, he struggled in the NHL, scoring three goals and six points in 25 big league games.
The player the Avalanche want on the one-year deal is the Grigorenko who scored more nearly .85 points per game in the AHL. They want the QMJHL and CHL Rookie of the Year. They don’t want the Grigorenko who has scored only six goals and 14 points in 68 career games. They also don't want the Grigorenko who over the past three seasons has been a drag on puck possession, albeit while playing on a bad Buffalo team.
If this season happens to go south on him once again, there’s little doubt the Avalanche will cut bait and send him to the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage where he can play out the season heading toward another year of restricted free agency. As such, this could be Grigorenko’s last, real shot at making his mark in the NHL. Because after four seasons of trying and failing, he might not have luck finding another club that takes a shot.