The Sabres have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with restricted free agent forward Zemgus Girgensons. The deal is reported to be just north of $1M. The 22-year-old struggled last season, posting a dismal 18 points in 71 games played.
Girgensons earned a great deal of popularity over the previous two seasons as the lone bright spot on a team of misfits. Dubbed the “Latvian Locomotive” by fans, he was a fan favorite both locally and in his home country of Latvia (who nearly single handedly voted him into the 2014-15 all-star game).
Girgensons has fallen out of favor with some fans after a clear regression in play last season. His enigmatic dip in production led to several theories as to the cause. Part of the issue could be attributed to the fact that he averaged a surprisingly low 15:02 of ice time per game.
This was a significant drop from the 19:04 he accounted for in 2014-15’. His reduction in ice time coincides with addition of centers Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly, which allowed the organization to be less reliant on Girgensons to play top line minutes.
While many fans criticized Dan Bylsma’s utilization of Girgensons last season, the young forward placed the blame squarely on himself.
“It’s definitely on me how I played. It’s just bearing down on chances I had, more focus, more drive, more passion for the goals and offense I should have.” – Girgensons
The potential is still there for Girgensons to develop into an effective third liner in the NHL. He operates at maximum effort every shift and serves as an effective penalty killer.
There is a possibility that Girgensons may never become the player we saw flashes of as a rookie in terms of point production. Next season will be key in determining his long term prospect as a Buffalo Sabre. This season Girgensons has the chance to prove what he is worth.
“Zemgus has grown into a solid two-way player since beginning his career. We hope to see him continue this positive trend and find a consistent role within the club this season as another young player to grow with our group.” – Tim Murray
Very excited to be back for another season with the Sabres! Thanks to everyone for all the… https://t.co/FqInstpOta
— Zemgus Girgensons (@zemgus94) September 1, 2016