Zemgus Girgensons had his worst season last year, finishing with a career-low 16 points in 75 games while averaging a little more than 13 minutes of ice time. Through four seasons, the Latvian has failed to develop into the reliable checking center the Sabres thought he'd be when they claimed him with the 14th overall pick in 2012. Buffalo's deployed him both at center and on the wing in an effort to get him going, to no avail. He did have a promising January with seven points in 14 games when he received more ice time, but that production quickly tailed off, sending him back to a limited role. Girgensons still has some potential at 23 years old, but his time is running out in Buffalo unless he makes significant improvements, and that may be difficult for him to do with no clear path to top-six minutes.
Girgensons was put on a line with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo on Friday to open training camp, John Vogl of The Buffalo News reports. New head coach Phil Housley is giving Girgensons a vote of confidence and a chance to show what he's capable of after two frustrating seasons in which he scored just 14 goals in 146 games. The two-way forward was also listed as a left wing to open camp, which means he'll have fewer defensive responsibilities and allow the Sabres to try Sam Reinhart and Jacob Josefsen at center. Lines in training camp aren't set in stone, but it's a positive development for Girgensons, who inked a two-year extension in mid-August.
Girgensons agreed to terms on a two-year contract with Buffalo on Thursday worth $1.6 million of average annual value, Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News reports. Girgensons' past two seasons have been disappointing -- a combined 34 points from 2015-17 -- after a solid sophomore campaign in 2014-15 (15 goals and 15 helpers). Despite the drop off in production, the 23-year-old was one of the Sabres' offseason priorities that they have now locked in for two more years. Considering he averaged a mere 13:10 of ice time last season, the center figures to offer mid-range fantasy value at best.
Girgensons received a qualifying offer from the Sabres, making him a restricted free agent. Girgensons had a very tough season, scoring just seven goals and 16 points in his fourth year in the league after scoring 52 points in his first two seasons. Girgensons spent much of the season toiling on the fourth line, and was deployed at center and on the wing in an effort to get him going, but usually to no avail. The 23-year-old enters a key stretch of his development, and the Sabres qualified him partly because they know he has much more to offer. It's likely that Girgensons settles for another short-term contract to prove himself, but will face competition in camp from Johan Larsson, who leapfrogged Girgensons on the depth chart this past season.
Girgensons will not be made available to Vegas for the expansion draft. Despite a frustrating season that saw him post career lows in goals and assists and saw his role diminish, the Sabres obviously still see some potential in the former first-round pick. At just 22 years old, Girgensons still has tons of room for improvement, and the Sabres still envision him as a two-way, third-line center behind Jack Eichel and Ryan O'Reilly. Girgensons is a restricted free agent, but he's unlikely to command a long-term deal and will likely settle for a short-term bridge deal instead.
Girgensons (mid-body) has been activated and barring any kind of setback will play Saturday against Colorado. Girgensons has missed the past seven games due to what head coach Dan Bylsma called an "internal mid-body" injury. His play had begun to pick up when he suffered the injury, playing between 15-19 minutes per night, which is much higher than his season average of 13:19. While his offensive production is still lacking, Girgensons is a versatile player who's simply going through some growing pains. Keep in mind that he's just 23 years old, and that his two-way game is already much more developed than most of his peers. He'll likely center the third line upon his return behind Ryan O'Reilly and Jack Eichel.
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