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Grigorenko contract with Blue Jackets rejected by NHL

Forward is ineligible to sign now; deal will be refiled during free agent period

NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Mikhail Grigorenko's contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets was rejected by the NHL on Monday because it violated the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The forward signed a one-year contract for the 2020-21 NHL season after playing three seasons with CSKA Moscow in the Kontinental Hockey League, but because he was previously drafted and played in the NHL, he is ineligible to sign an NHL contract until the free agent period opens following the season, which has been paused since March 12 due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

The Blue Jackets released the following statement:

"Earlier today, the Columbus Blue Jackets announced the signing of forward Mikhail Grigorenko to a one-year contract for the 2020-21 National Hockey League season. The contract subsequently has been rejected by NHL Central Registry due to a misunderstanding with regards to the filing window. We have been in contact with the League and Dan Milstein, Grigorenko's agent, and the contract will be filed on July 1."

On Tuesday, Grigorenko told The Athletic that the delay will not change his plan to sign with the Blue Jackets.

"I've made my decision," Grigorenko said. "I believe the contract is valid and it will be filed [when free agency begins]. I don't think anything changes. There's no way I'm going to talk to any other teams."

Grigorenko said the chance to play a consistent role next season is what makes the Blue Jackets appealing to him.

"Their interest from Columbus was one thing," he said. "The other thing is they're a team that can offer me an opportunity. There aren't a lot of teams in the NHL that can offer that.

"I know if I come to camp well-prepared and play really good and earn my ice time, I'm actually going to play. Everything's in my hands at this point."

Grigorenko, the No. 12 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, scored 64 points (22 goals, 42 assists) in 217 NHL games with the Sabres and Colorado Avalanche from 2012-17. 

The 25-year-old played three seasons for the Sabres before he was traded to the Avalanche on June 26, 2015. He scored an NHL career-high 27 points (six goals, 21 assists) for Colorado in 2015-16.

Grigorenko agreed to a three-year contract to play in Russia on July 3, 2017. He scored 116 points (46 goals, 70 assists) in 147 games for CSKA and helped it win the 2019 Gagarin Cup after leading the KHL with 13 playoff goals and 21 points in 20 games. He also helped the Olympic Athletes of Russia win the gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics with four points (one goal, three assists) in six games.

"Time will tell, but he's just getting into his prime as a player," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen told their website. "He's 25 years old. I think the positive thing is there are other levels for him to get to still. It's not like he's plateaued or should plateau now. I think he could keep getting better for the next five years. 

"We do believe in his potential. We do think he has a lot of those ingredients that will make a player successful over here." 

Grigorenko said Kekalainen's personal touch made his decision easier.

"I like the fact that Jarmo watched me play for the past two years and watched me play live in Russia," Grigorenko told the Blue Jackets website. "He made some trips to watch me play. He really knows what kind of player I am, and I think it's important for me to get in a situation where people know what type of player. I think that's good. 

"They offered me a contract and they offered me an opportunity. If I come to training camp and perform well, I'll get a chance to play and have an opportunity, so that's everything I can ask for in this situation. I thought Columbus would be a good fit." 

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