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Girgensons has little negotiating room with Sabres

When the Sabres announced the signing of restricted free agents Jason Kasdorf and Dan Catenacci on Sunday night, it left them with just two RFAs to complete deals with. One is defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen and it’s well-known the team is in talks with their franchise blue-liner on a long-term deal.

The other one is forward Zemgus Girgensons, and his case is quite a bit more muddy.

The Sabres extended Girgensons his one-year qualifying offer of $874,125 (a 5 percent raise from last year’s $832,500), but the 22-year-old did not accept it by Friday’s 5 p.m. deadline.

The prevailing theory is that Girgensons is looking to do a deal of two to three years but he’s in a bad spot. Girgensons had just seven goals and 18 points in 71 games last season, his lowest offensive output in his three seasons to date. It’s clear he struggled at times under Dan Bylsma’s structured system and didn’t mesh with the new coach nearly as well as he did with Ted Nolan, his Olympic coach for his native Latvia. Both Bylsma and General Manager Tim Murray freely admitted at the end of the season they didn’t know if Girgensons projected as a center or as a winger.

There were some good moments at wing for him last season with Jack Eichel but plenty of nights where the former first-round pick just disappeared. And get this stat: Girgensons didn’t score a single goal at home all season, and had just four of his 18 points in First Niagara Center.

When the season ended, Girgensons freely accepted blame for his sub-par performance. If the season started today, there’s a good chance he would simply be a fourth-line player and that’s certainly not what the Sabres expected from him.

Girgensons’ agent, Kent Hughes, responded to an inquiry by The News on Monday by saying only, “I can’t comment on the negotiations other than to say we are in communication.”

It will be interesting to see how this one turns out. And there’s a whole summer for Murray to swing a deal that could include Girgensons as well. The Sabres are getting tight to the cap if you give Ristolainen a deal in the $5 million range or higher, so it seems unlikely Girgensons would get much more than the qualifying offer out of the team. Particularly given how last year went.

As for Kasdorf and Catenacci, they got two-way deals and are expected to be key players in Rochester. As per, Kasdorf got a two-year deal with a $612,500 NHL cap hit. It pays $575,000 in the NHL and $100,000 in the AHL for the first year and $650k/$125k in the second year. Catenacci’s one-year deal pays $575,000 in the NHL and $85,000 in the AHL.


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