The Buffalo Sabres could be getting a blue line boost sometime in the near future. According to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet in Toronto, the Sabres are the front runner to land defenseman Viktor Antipin out of the KHL.
"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."
This season in the KHL Antipin tallied 24 points (8G, 16A) in 59 games played with a plus 10 plus/minus rating. Antipin added five points (3G, 2A) in eight playoff games with the Metallurg Magnitogorsk.
Admittedly I haven't watched Antipin play and don't know much about the 24-year-old defender....but when you see that teams like Chicago, Columbus and Pittsburgh were interested it seems like this is a good get for the Sabres. Let's not kid ourselves, the blue line has been the biggest issue for the blue and gold this year and they could desperately use a young left-handed defender moving forward.
With Cody Franson and Dmitry Kulikov set to hit the open market, the Sabres needed to add some players no matter what. Why not take a chance on a young player with very solid numbers?
Nikita Zaitsev, the 25-year-old defender from the Toronto Maple Leafs was in a similar situation last year, after coming to the NHL after three seasons in the KHL. He's started every game for the Maple Leafs this year and has an impressive 29 points (3G, 26A). His biggest criticism has been how he has at times struggled defensively, but jumping right into the NHL is no easy task.
Will Antipin have the success that Zaitsev or Artemi Panarin with Chicago have had these last few years? Who knows.....but when you see what these players have done, it's hard not to take a chance on the guys ripping up the KHL.