After months of speculation, the Buffalo Sabres announced on Thursday the team has agreed with 24-year-old defenseman Victor Antipin to a one-year, entry-level contract.
#Sabres have officially signed Viktor Antipin.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) May 25, 2017
“Victor is a well-rounded defenseman who has played in all situations at the pro level,” Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill said. “His mobility and puck-moving skills make him a perfect match for what we’re hoping to build with our defense corps next season.”
Please note that the spelling of Antipin’s first name is “Victor” and his last name is pronounced an-TEE-pihn.
— Sabres PR (@SabresPR) May 25, 2017
Antipin, 24, tallied 24 points (8G, 16A) in 59 games played with a plus 10 plus/minus rating with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL last season. Antipin added 11 points (7G, 4A) in 18 playoff games and was named the top defensive player in the KHL Finals (Gagarin Cup) where his team fell to Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk of SKA Saint Petersburg.
More recently, Antipin tallied four assists in ten games with Russia in the 2017 IIHF World Hockey Championships.
*Antipin is pronounced an-TEE-pihn*
We've been talking about this potential addition for months, so now we can all step back and breathe for a few minutes.
It all comes down to this -- it's a low-risk, high reward move for a team that desperately needs help on the blue line.
If the move doesn't work out it shouldn't hurt the Sabres long term, so who cares? With the crop of unrestricted free agents available on July 1 and the upcoming NHL draft class, the Sabres and new GM Jason Botterill needed to get a bit creative and taking a shot on Antipin makes a ton of sense.
Temper your expectations because Antipin won't fix the Sabres defense, but his addition is the start of a remodel that's shaping before our eyes.
Next up, Giorgio Estephan.
Getting to know Antipin:
But who is Antipin and what kind of player are the Sabres potentially getting? We asked KHL insider Aivis Kalni?š what kind of player.
Question: What can Sabres fans expect from Antipin?
"Sabres fans can expect a new leader in the locker room, a guy with winning experience and overall fun guy. A passionate player who has a spark and willingness to go out there and prove that he belongs in the National Hockey league. A tiny guy with a huge heart."
Question: What are his strengths and weaknesses as a player?
"His main strengths are his ability to carry the puck up the ice, creating offensive zone chances, but at the same time playing a hustle back game making him a well-rounded two-way defenseman. I would compare him to Nikita Zaitsev in a way, but Antipin has a slightly better defensive and offensive game. Him being a smaller guy doesn't make an impact on his physical play, he isn't afraid to throw a hit. One of the rare players that can play in all situations. Lacks a bit of consistency from time to time. Sometimes he takes one too many penalties due to the fact that he gets carried away when it comes to forechecking."
Question: Do you see his game translating well to the NHL?
"While it's clear that he is unlikely to be a top pair guy, I think some of his qualities will carry over to the NHL. A lot depends on the coach. What will be his tasks on the ice, and how long it will take for him to adjust to North American sized surface? Obviously, we are unlikely to see him play the same game he was allowed to in KHL, but I'm confident that one thing he will carry over will be his ability to be one of the best power play guys in the league."