It appears the Buffalo Sabres are another step closer to landing KHL defenseman Viktor Antipin.
According to Igor Eronko of Sport-Express', Antipin has terminated his contract with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, allowing him to sign with the Sabres.
Per source Viktor Antipin terminated his contract with Magnitogorsk Metallurg to sign with Buffalo #Sabres
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) May 1, 2017
KHL insider Aivis Kalnins is also reporting that a deal between the Sabres and Antipin could get done before the upcoming IIHF World Championships conclude, which appeared to be the initial timetable. Kalnins says the timetable has changed because other NHL teams appear interested and the Sabres want to ensure they can get a deal finalized.
Antipin, 24, tallied 24 points (8G, 16A) in 59 games played with a plus 10 plus/minus rating with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the KHL this 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.
Source tells me that #Sabres and Antipin could sign sooner than expected. No longer timetable of ''After World Championships''.
— Aivis Kalni?š (@A_Kalnins) May 1, 2017
This is fantastic news for the Sabres. No one knows if Antipin will translate to the NHL but it's a low-risk, high reward kind of move for a team that desperately needs help on the blue line.
With the chaos in Buffalo these last few weeks the status of Antipin was uncertain, but this latest report reassures what many viewed as a certainty just a few months earlier. It's hard not to like the move when you see the success fellow Russian defenseman Nikita Zaitsev had with the Toronto Maple Leafs this past season.
It's fair to assume both Antipin and 2015 second round pick Brendan Guhle will be on the Sabres opening day roster next season. Neither has proven they can be successful at the NHL level just yet, but two new players with upside are exactly what the Sabres woeful defensive unit needs. Antipin doesn't solve the problem, but it's a start.