Columbus Blue Jackets bring back Mikhail Grigorenko to the NHL

UPDATE: On the evening of April 20, the National Hockey League announced the Columbus Blue Jackets signing of Mikhail Grigorenko had been rejected due to a misunderstanding of the free agency rules. The Blue Jackets will be able to sign Grigorenko as early as July 1. 

The Columbus Blue Jackets have brought Mikhail Grigorenko of Khabarovsk, Russia back to the National Hockey League. According to Chris Johnston of Rogers Sportsnet, the contract is for one year and worth $1.2 million.

A center, Grigorenko had spent the last three hockey seasons with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League. In 2019-20, he had 19 goals and 22 assists for 41 points in 47 regular season games. Grigorenko also was a +16 with only four penalty minutes. In the 2020 KHL Playoffs, Grigorenko had one goal and one assist for two points in four games.

CSKA Moscow was the top team in the KHL this past season. With a record of 45 wins, 13 losses and four losses in extra time for 94 points, they had one more point than SKA Saint Petersburg and Ak Bars Kazan, who had 93 points each. In the Western Conference Quarterfinals, CSKA Moscow swept Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod four games to none. However CSKA Moscow could not play Dynamo Moscow in the Western Conference semifinals because the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. There are currently 47, 121 cases of coronavirus in Russia with 405 deaths.

The Blue Jackets become Grigorenko’s third National Hockey League team. He previously played three seasons with the Buffalo Sabres from 2012 to 2015 and two seasons with the Colorado Avalanche from 2015 to 2017.

Grigorenko’s best NHL season offensively came in 2015-16 with the Avalanche. That season he had career highs in assists (21), points (27), plus/minus (+2) and blocked shots (39).

In five NHL regular seasons, Grigorenko scored 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points in 217 games. He was a -26 with 30 penalty minutes, 11 power play points, 255 shots on goal, 524 faceoff wins, 87 blocked shots, 86 hits, 72 takeaways and 64 giveaways.

One could argue that Grigorenko did not meet expectations for a first round draft pick in his first stint in the NHL. Now the phrase “second chance” has been used regularly since Grigorenko signed with Columbus on Monday. We will have to see how much of an impact he will have in John Tortorella’s system.

Furthermore it is interesting that the Blue Jackets have signed Grigorenko for the 2020-21 season and not the rest of the 2019-20 season. Columbus is definitely in the thick of things in the Eastern Conference. Heading into the coronavirus pause, Columbus is fifth in the Metropolitan Division, but in a playoff spot as they are eighth in the Eastern Conference. With a record of 33 wins, 22 regulation losses and 15 losses in extra time, they have 81 points. Columbus leads the New York Islanders by one point for the final playoff spot.