The Sabres Observer
by @DaveDavisHockey on 03/16/13 at 12:34 PM ET
It certainly was a lousy PR move, much worse than the Tim Kennedy pseudocrisis a few years ago that nearly triggered an earthquake in South Buffalo. But, contrary to the beliefs of angry Sabres fans, it wasn't a vote of confidence for other underperformers on the team.
It's likely no coincidence that yesterday was the exact day Mikhail Grigorenko was sent back to juniors. It had little to do with wanting to keep Jochen Hecht, Jordan Leopold and John Scott when a roster move had to be made. I believe strongly that this decision was made about a week ago, for the simple reason (other than the young Russian's poor play) that March 16th represented a deadline.
If Grigorenko had dressed for today's matinee against Ottawa, it would have been his 23rd game of the season. That may not be significant to you or me, but it's a big deal in the long-term thought process typical of what an NHL GM goes through all the time.
Here's a detailed explanation from my piece back in January where I hinted that this demotion might happen:
Even though playing more than 5 games would burn the first year of Grigorenko's entry level contract, it would not immediately register 2013 as an "accrued year of service" for him when calculating future UFA eligibility. In this shortened season, an NHL player must be dressed for 23 games for it to count as an accrued year. What this means in English is that, as long as he plays less than 23 games this season, Grigorenko will still need 7 years of service before being eligible for unrestricted free agency.
There's a very important point here not to be overlooked. Owners and GM's are way more frightened of unrestricted free agency than the expiration date of a player's entry-level contract. In the latter case, the team still has the leverage.
In the grand scheme of things, having a player become a restricted free agent generally isn't a huge deal. That's why fans and media haven't wasted even a breath pondering where Cody Hodgson could end up playing next season.
Not only is the catch phrase "burning a year of his ELC" being way overused, it isn't even true. Look at the calendar. The Sabres burned 6 weeks of Grigorenko's contract, and it could be less if they end up recalling him.
UPDATE 3/21 8:42 am: While this information was later reported by Bob McKenzie and Craig Button, it turns out that all of us are wrong on this one. An accrued season is determined by games on the roster, not games played. Grigorenko was on the roster for 27 games, so this is indeed an accrued year. Strangely, the rule is different than the 5-game barometer used to determine ELC status. Button made the correction and apologized this morning, and the same goes for me here.
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About The Sabres Observer
Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003. He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene. Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]