Monday, 13 July 2020

Now It's Official

The man to the left, heralded in his junior hockey days with the Quebec Remparts for his scoring ability, has been across the continent and back before landing in Russia only to have finally returned to North America in April after signing a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mikhail Grigorenko was supposed to be added to the Blue Jackets' roster for the 2020-21 season following his KHL contract ending, and everything seemed like it was going to plan. The only problem? That contract was voided by the NHL after finding that the signing date had violated a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement as the contract didn't include the 2019-20 season. As a result, Grigorenko was still a free agent and the Blue Jackets were still wooing him to join the team.

With the deal in April having been terminated by the NHL, both Grigorenko and the Blue Jackets agreed to honour the original one-year, $1.2 million deal with the CBA allowed for the signing to officially take place. Today, that period of time to sign free agents opened up as per the CBA, and the Blue Jackets made it officially - again - by signing Grigorenko to the one-year deal.

It will be an interesting look at how Grigorenko has grown since last suiting up with the Colorado Avalanche in 2016-17. The 26 year-old spent the last three seasons with CSKA Moscow in the KHL where he had 46 goals and 116 points over 147 games. While he's not coming in as the Russian Connor McDavid by any means, there is hope from the Blue Jackets side that the older Grigorenko might be able to pick his spots offensively while playing a solid defensive game.

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen reiterated what he liked about Grigorenko's game in Russia on Monday.

"He's just getting into his prime as a player," Kekalainen said on April 20. "We've watched him the last couple of years and have had interest in him the last couple of years. And he's improved. But time will tell on the North American side. We do believe in his potential. We do think he has a lot of those ingredients that will make a player successful over here."

Whatever the Blue Jackets saw in Grigorenko must have been something more than what both Buffalo and Colorado saw in his where he amassed just 64 points in 217 NHL games. Perhaps what Kekalainen liked most was Grigorenko's versatility in a lineup where he can play almost any forward position.

"He's a left shot," Kekalainen stated, "but he can play right side, left side and center. He plays special teams. He's a power-play player. We're going to see where he can fit in."

Where ever he slots into the lineup will be up to head coach John Tortorella, but the risk of signing a player who never reached his potential with two teams is low when considering the dollar amount attached to Grigorenko's contract. If Tortorella can squeeze more than 27 points out of him - currently Grigorenko's career-high in any NHL season - this should be considered a win for the Blue Jackets with respect to the return on investment.

If Grigorenko can't adapt to John Tortorella's demand of hard work and effort, the length of the contract doesn't hurt the Blue Jackets long-term either as Grigorenko can be cut loose next summer. For an NHL player who came in with big promise, heading to his third team before the age of 30 doesn't look to appealing to future suitors unless he can show NHL teams that he's made changes to his game and his old habits.

It's official as of today: Mikhail Grigorenko is a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 2020-21 season. It will be entirely up to him to determine if he's there longer, and he can make that happen through hard work, scoring, and sound defensive play.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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