The Buffalo Sabres have needed help on the blue line all year long, and, following the lead of our president, they may be looking to Russia for some help.
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Sabres are expected to sign Viktor Antipin, a left-handed defenseman who currently plays for KHL Magnitogorsk.
Here’s what Friedman had to say in today’s 30 Thoughts column:
7. Don’t know if the Rangers are going to get Kevin Shattenkirk, but there is one free-agent defenceman they could snare. His name is Alexei Bereglazov, a 22-year-old left-hand shot playing at KHL Magnitogorsk. They are considered a favourite.
8. That team’s blue line could really be poached. Another defender, 24-year-old Viktor Antipin (also a lefty), is expected to join Buffalo. The Sabres won a bit of a recruiting battle, with Calgary, Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh all poking around.
Antipin is a 24-year old lefty who is a little on the small side, listed at 5’11’, 179 lbs. However, he has four years of experience playing regularly for Magnitogorsk, including four years in the playoffs, and has also played for Russia in the World Juniors and World Championships. According to those who know the KHL, he is “NHL-ready”.
Alexei Berezgalov and Viktor Antipin are two KHL FA's, that I have been asked the most about by NHL teams. Both are young lefties.— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) March 14, 2017
Antipin is more mature guy while Berezgalov has some speed in his game, I believe that both would be great fits for NHL teams looking to add— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) March 14, 2017
Look at Nikita Zaitsev, both guys are in a somewhat same realm. https://t.co/mQcr0z9zcT— Aivis Kalniņš (@A_Kalnins) March 14, 2017
As for the Nikita Zaitsev comparison, he signed a deal sending him from the KHL to Toronto last May, and has put up 29 points for the Leafs this season to go along with his strong two-way game. Cody Franson is currently second among defensemen on the Sabres with 19 points, and he certainly has not contributed a strong two way game this year.
With signs that the Sabres are also interested in signing collegiate free agent defenseman Gavin Bayreuther of St. Lawrence, GMTM is clearly looking anywhere and everywhere to fix his team’s most glaring issue. Signing Antipin would be a good start.