Sabres GM plans to qualify RFA Mikhail Grigorenko: 'He needs time in the minors'

Timothy T Ludwig / Reuters

Mikhail Grigorenko isn't ready for a one-way contract.

That's the stance taken by general manager Tim Murray and the Buffalo Sabres, who are leaning toward qualifying the restricted free agent, thereby seeking a one-year, two-way deal that would keep the door open for more time spent in the AHL.

"We feel he needs time in the minors, whether that's 10 games, a half a year, whatever it is," Murray told Bill Hoppe of Buffalo Hockey Beat. "That will depend on what kind of summer he has."

Grigorenko and his camp are reportedly unhappy with the situation, to the point of considering a return to Russia.

From Murray's perspective, however, the language of a two-way deal shouldn't matter, seeing as the Sabres would have to expose Grigorenko to the waiver wire in order to send him to AHL Rochester.

"If he is what he thinks he is, he's in the NHL, in my opinion, just not in Buffalo," Murray said, clearly assuming another team would surely claim the forward off waivers. "We're not arguing by any means. It just a difference of opinion on a qualifying offer that has an AHL component to it versus a one-way deal."

Complicating matters is the presence of fellow young centers Zemgus Girgensons and Sam Reinhart, as well as the impending selection of Jack Eichel at the 2015 NHL Draft. Grigorenko would need to prove he belongs somewhere in that mix in order to secure a roster spot.

"Does he have the ability to be an NHL player down the road if he does things right?" Murray asked. "Absolutely."

But only after a little more seasoning in the minors.

The 21-year-old has had a yo-yo of a career so far, bouncing between the NHL, AHL, and QMJHL since being drafted 12th overall in 2012. In 68 regular season games with the Sabres, he has recorded six goals and eight assists, but his production at the lower levels suggests another level of offensive talent not yet displayed at the NHL.