The Buffalo Sabres new regime of Ted Nolan and Pat LaFontaine made a big show of burying ex-GM Darcy Regier’s so-called youth movement yesterday. They sent Nikita Zadorov back to his junior team and demoted a trio of youngsters to the Rochester Americans of the AHL.
One of those youngsters was Mikhail Grigorenko, who was being sent to the minors on what Buffalo deemed a “conditioning assignment.” Since the center hadn’t been injured recently, the NHL blocked his demotion. Mike Brehm of USA Today had the details on the veto:
Under NHL rules, a player under 20 who was drafted out the Canadian Hockey League can’t be sent outright to the AHL. The Sabres announced on Tuesday that it was sending Grigorenko, 19, to Rochester, N.Y., on a conditioning assignment, which would have allowed him to go to the minors for 14 games.
NHL deputy commissioner told Brehm via email that the league had “determined that the assignment would not have been consistent with our obligations under the league’s agreement with the CHL.”
The leaves the Sabres with two clear-cut choices: they can continue to keep him in the NHL, or they can send him back to his junior team. That prospect is tricky for several reasons, however. For starters, Buffalo would have burnt not one, but two years off of Grigorenko’s entry-level deal by this point.
While the team may or may not have an issue with that, there’s actually a hangup on the end of the Quebec Remparts. If Grigorenko was to be re-assigned there, he’d put the team over the two-import player limit that is imposed in Canadian major junior hockey. Since he’s Russian, he’s still considered an import and the Remparts are already carrying two players from overseas.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Sabres do in this situation. Nolan clearly doesn’t have any real interest in making Grigorenko part of the team’s core right now, but he may not have much of a choice. A talent like this is wasted in the press box, which is why Buffalo demoted him to the AHL in the first place.