by PuckStopsHere on 03/16/13 at 05:26 PM ET
As a general rule it is a bad idea to rush your draft choices into the NHL. This rule of thumb exists regardless of the question of hurting their development by rushing them too quickly into a role that they are not ready to succeed in. A player can become an unrestricted free agent at age 27 or after seven NHL seasons in the current CBA. A player who is rushed to the NHL at age 18 will have completed his seven seasons by age 25. This is a trade-off of the player's seasons at age 26 and 27 later for their seasons at age 18 and 19 today. Almost every player in NHL history was better at age 26 and 27 than they were at age 18 and 19.
Worse in the salary capped NHL, a team needs to have a group of players who exceed the value of their contracts to be a top team. In most seasons since they came into existence the players who must exceed the value of their contract is on an entry level contract. This contract covers the first three years of his NHL career. If he is still junior aged and does not play a sufficient number of games in the NHL his contract can start can be tolled onto the next season. This makes the cheap entry level deal a trade-off between ages 18, 19 and 20 and ages 20, 21 and 22. NHL players are almost certainly better at ages 21 and 22 than they are at age 18 and 19. In many cases this is a bad trade-off. This trade-off may be worthwhile if a team has a chance at winning the Stanley Cup now and his presence might help.
We have a recent case where a team made the wrong choice. The Buffalo Sabres demoted 2012 first round draft pick Mikhail Grigorenko to the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL yesterday.
Grigorenko was selected 12th overall in the 2012 draft. This was later than many expected because of an early run on defencemen in the draft. He had scored 85 points in 59 games in the 2011/12 QMJHL season.
Buffalo opted to start the clock on his race to unrestricted free agency and the race to end his entry level contract this season. Grigorenko hasn't been ready. He has played in 22 of 27 games so far with five healthy scratches. The Sabres have been unwilling to play him on a regular basis. He has been limited to about nine minutes per game. In that time he has scored one goal and four assists. It is a wasted season for him. It is largely a wasted year for the Buffalo Sabres who are second last in the East Conference. Buffalo has made a series of bad choices this year including the firing of Lindy Ruff. It has led the team out of contention. This mistake with Grigorenko is one that will cost them in the future and make it harder to recover. Buffalo gave up a future advantage to try to win now and they are not winning now. In fact they showed that there is so little advantage to using Grigorenko now that they are willing to part with him for this season despite having already paid the future costs. It is a mistake for the franchise.
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