BUFFALO – General manager Tim Murray knows 21-year-old center Mikhail Grigorenko is frustrated the Sabres are offering a two-way contract. The restricted free agent dislikes the deal so much he’s reportedly fielding offers from the KHL, a league in his native Russia.
“I hear rumors,” Murray said Thursday during a news conference inside the First Niagara Center to discuss next week’s NHL Draft.
Clearly, the Sabres and Grigorenko’s camp have vastly different opinions of the youngster, the No. 12 pick in 2012.
“We feel he needs time in the minors, whether that’s 10 games, a half a year, whatever it is,” Murray said. “That will depend on what kind of summer he has.”
Grigorenko, who has six goals and 14 points in 68 NHL games, wants a one-way deal.
“They tell me he’s ready to play,” Murray said. “I don’t know why they’d be afraid of a two-way contract. I’m baffled, actually.”
In Murray’s opinion, if Grigorenko thinks he’s an NHL talent, a two-way contract doesn’t matter. He’ll stick in the league if he’s good enough. If not, the Sabres must waive Grigorenko – Murray believes he could be claimed – to send him to Rochester.
“If he is what he thinks he is, he’s in the NHL, in my opinion, just not in Buffalo,” Murray said. “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.”
Murray, who said Grigorenko has never told him he wants to pursue the KHL, hasn’t lost faith in the youngster.
“Does he have the ability to be an NHL player down the road if he does things right?” he asked. “Absolutely.”
Murray, of course, could also change his mind about the offer.
“At this point, I haven’t changed my mind,” he said. “We’re leaning toward qualifying him.”
It’s unclear where Grigorenko would fit in with the Sabres, who have three young centers – Zemgus Girgensons, Johan Larsson and Sam Reinhart – penciled in ahead of him. They will also draft center Jack Eichel second overall next week.
Grigorenko had 14 goals and 36 points in 43 games with Rochester last season and three goals and six points in 25 NHL appearances.
Sabres winger Cody Hodgson, who endured a brutal six-goal, 13-point season, is still a buyout candidate, Murray said. The buyout period began Thursday and ends June 30.
“We’ve discussed it with Cody based on the year he had,” Murray said. “In saying that, I’ve been in contact with his agent.”
Hodgson is currently working in Sweden “trying to improve,” Murray said.
Murray said he hasn’t had any contract talks with winger Patrick Kaleta, the Sabres’ longest-tenured player. The nine-year veteran is an unrestricted free agent.
If the Sabres re-sign the injury-prone agitator, it would likely be after free agency opens July 1.
“All we’ve said is we’re not prepared to do anything right now, that we understand that on July 1 that he’s a UFA,” Murray said. “It’s his prerogative to sign with another team July 1. We may, after July 1, return to that and pick up talks with them.”
The first glimpse of Eichel on home ice with the Sabres should come July 6-12, when the team hosts its annual development camp at the FNC.
The year’s session, which the team announced Thursday, will undoubtedly have extra buzz since Eichel, the Boston University center the Sabres will draft second overall next week, will likely participate.
On-ice sessions during the week will be open to the public. An intra-squad “Blue and Gold Scrimmage” will be held July 10 at 7 p.m. inside the FNC. Tickets are $10 and will go on sale June 26 at Sabres.com.
Camp will conclude with a three-on-three tournament the final day. A complete schedule will be announced later this month.
Murray said he still doesn’t know if Eichel, who was impressed by Buffalo during the recent NHL Scouting combine the team hosted, will leave school.
“I think he’s waiting to see who drafts him,” he said. “We all know that. He’s a (18-year-old) kid.”
He added: “He’s still wide-eyed and thinks things can happen.”
Murray said he has “full faith” Eichel will “make the right decision, whatever that may be.”
Notes: The Sabres likely won’t qualify winger Kevin Sundher, a restricted free agent, Murray said. The Sabres won’t re-sign forward Zac Dalpe, either. Murray wasn’t sure if winger Jordan Samuels-Thomas, another RFA, would be qualified. Murray said he has “something different” for RFA Jerome Leduc, meaning the defenseman could be offered an AHL deal. … Murray said he has an “interest” in re-signing respected veteran Matt Ellis, who has been a regular in Buffalo some seasons and also captained Rochester.