Colorado Avalanche: Fair Value for Mikhail Grigorenko

Mar 18, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche center Mikhail Grigorenko (25) and Calgary Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland (29) battle for the puck during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Colorado Avalanche won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 18, 2016; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Colorado Avalanche center Mikhail Grigorenko (25) and Calgary Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland (29) battle for the puck during the third period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Colorado Avalanche won 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Colorado Avalanche have signed Nathan MacKinnon, and the new saga with Newport Sports Management continues on with Tyson Barrie, but why is no one talking about Mikhail Grigorenko’s value?

Tyson Barrie is not the only player who chose to file for arbitration — taking place from July 20 to August 4 in Toronto — on the Colorado Avalanche, as Mikhail Grigorenko has also opted for the same path.

Although Grigorenko is certainly not as high profile as Tyson Barrie, he certainly has shown some flashes of offensive elite prowess, and is most definitely a valuable asset to the team if he can continue to improve.

I actually already tackled the topic of Grigorenko’s extension earlier in the year, but I think it’s time to elaborate seeing as he has a ton of potential, and is one of my favorite players on the team.

Related Story: Mikhail Grigorenko Contract Extension

That post is speculation about the ability Grigs can provide when given more minutes with top-tier talent, as well as an actual prediction to what his next contract will look like.

Well, now that time has come, and giving Grigs an extension is the only option if the Avalanche don’t want to lose the Ryan O’Reilly deal.

However, with this post instead of actually predicting what a contract extension is going to look like for Grigs, I’d rather assess his value.

Generally when assessing a player’s value you tend to look at other players with similar stats, near the same age, and with similar experience in the NHL.

Gauging that with Grigorenko is pretty difficult because there is no way to ascertain what he may be capable of in a couple years if he continues to develop, and his first “full” season was the 2015-16 season.

For example, it’s much easier to gauge Tyson Barrie’s value because he’s a bit more proven, and there are plenty of examples out there amongst current NHL defensemen that Avalanche management can relate to.

Related Story: What is Tyson Barrie's Value?

In other words, the players that are currently around Grigorenko’s production rate may be bad comparisons when considering the potential that Grigs has, and how much hockey he has actually played.

It’s impossible to judge how Grigs is going to produce in the longterm, so the Colorado Avalanche can’t make a silly move and increase his pay dramatically because they think he’s going to finally explode for a breakout year.

Nonetheless, Grigorenko is almost certainly overvaluing himself, or else he wouldn’t have elected to go to arbitration with the Avs.

My guess is that the Avalanche brass offered Grigs another one or two year contract with bridge deal type money, and Grigorenko is simply not having it this year.

But, it must be mentioned that Mikhail Grigorenko played well for the Avalanche last season, and if he had played the entire year he would have racked up 30 points, which is good for a high end fourth line center, and lower end third line forward.

Grigs is also only 22 years old, so he has plenty of time to develop even more, and if I’m a betting man then I’m betting on Grigs topping the 40 point mark next season.

He got more and more comfortable as the year went on, and he has the skill and defense to play with — and against — top talent on the ice.

Let’s give it a shot with value comparison using the five players below and their stats from the 2015-16 season:

  • Mattias Janmark (C): 29 points (15 goals and 14 assists) in 73 games, at 23 years old. Currently in the midst of a two year deal worth 1.6 mil and a cap hit of $733,750.
  • Erik Haula (LW): 34 points (14 goals and 20 assists) in 76 games, at 25 years old. Currently in the midst of a two year deal worth two mil and a cap hit of $1 million.
  • Jesper Fast (RW): 30 points (10 goals and 20 assists) in 79 games, at 24 years old. Currently in the midst of a two year deal worth 1.9 mil and a cap hit of $950,000.
  • Nick Bjugstad (C): 34 points (15 goals and 19 assists) in 67 games, at 23 years old. Currently in the midst of a six year deal worth 24.6 mil and a cap hit of $4.1 million.
  • Casey Cizikas (C): 29 points ( 8 goals and 21 assists) in 80 games, at 25 years old. Currently about to begin a five year deal worth 16.75 mil and a cap hit of $3.35 million.

I intentionally included the bottom two players for a couple different reasons. The first is that both — in my opinion — are bad contracts.

Compare Joe Colborne’s new contract to Bjugstad’s and you get what I mean; Colborne is signed for 2.5 mil a year, while Bjugstad carries a 4.1 mil cap.

I know that Colborne just showed up this year with his first 40 point season, but Bjugstad hit payday after his 2014-15 season in which he put up 43 points, his first 40 point season.

And Colborne just signed his two year deal after a 44 point season, a mark Bjugstad hasn’t reached yet. Cizikas on the other hand, is a little closer to Grigorenko’s value, but Grigs isn’t there yet.

If he turns out to be the player he was drafted for, then he’ll certainly end up being better than Cizikas, and most likely Bjugstad too, and should ask for that 4.1 mil cap hit.

A.K.A. Carl Soderberg-esque money.

However, Grigorenko could be asking for the type of money that Cizikas is getting because Cizikas’ contract begins next season, and he signed it this summer after his 29 point year.

The Islanders are probably betting that Cizikas turns those numbers up a notch, but a 3.35 mil cap is pretty high for that kind of production.

The second reason I included the bottom two players is to give an idea of where Grigorenko’s production might end up being.

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He could either be a perennial fourth line center like Cizikas, or could show that he has the ability to produce like Bjugstad, or even better than Bjugstad, which would put him right in the realm of top-six production.

Like I said, the Islanders are hoping that Cizikas can step into the third line center role, especially with the departure of Frans Nielsen, but if he doesn’t produce then that is a bad contract.

Nick Bjugstad is still only 23 years old, with three straight 30+ point seasons, and a total production of 115 points in 215 games, good enough for a .53 PPG pace, which puts him at a 43 point average over the last three seasons. Still, to me that’s not worth the 4.1 mil cap hit*.

So, the question remains, what should Mikhail Grigorenko’s value be to the Colorado Avalanche? Are the first three players a bit closer to his value?

The problem with those three players is that they have 1 more year (2016-17) on their contracts before their likely to get a pay raise, depending on production next season.

Furthermore, they also all have a lot less upside than Grigorenko does based on his potential alone.

Essentially, I’m thinking that Grigorenko’s value falls between cheap at a 1 million cap hit, and expensive at a 4 million cap hit.

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His next contract should be another bridge deal of the one to two year variety, and probably around 1.5 million a year, at best.

The Colorado Avalanche have no reason to lock him up long term yet, and they should avoid contracts like Bjugstad’s and Cizikas’ at all costs, except for the cost of losing Grigs in any other way aside from a trade.

The kid has potential, and his value is nearly impossible to gauge, but if he’s asking for an astronomical amount of money in arbitration then he should be dealt.

I still think the Colorado Avalanche will find a way to lock him up before arbitration strikes, but they need to be very careful how they tread those waters.

Nonetheless, if it goes to arbitration then Grigorenko really doesn’t have the strongest case anyway because this was his first “full” season in the NHL, and 27 points is nothing to write home about.

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He is still one of my favorite players on the team, and I think that he provides a lot of offensive upside, but it will be interesting to see how his development shakes out, and certainly intriguing to see how his new contract comes about.

Arbitration is approaching in a little over two weeks, and the Colorado Avalanche still have Tyson Barrie to deal with. Grigorenko’s is on July 22, while Barrie is going July 29.

Related Story: Frustration with Tyson Barrie's Arbitration

Barrie is certainly the headline of this whole ordeal, but Grigorenko is still lurking in the background as a strange outlier amongst the rest of the NHL players to file for arbitration.

Now that we have a small inkling of what Grigorenko’s value looks like, we can kind of get an idea of what he may be asking for.

Hopefully the Avs are able to avoid those two bad contracts listed above, and instead give Grigorenko another bridge deal to figure out what type of player he wants to be in the NHL.

*note, if Bjugstad is able to cross the 50 point threshold then his contract starts to look a lot better.